USC got much more than it bargained for Thursday night, needing a second half rally to defeat Oregon State. The Beavers ambushed a Trojan team coming off their first loss of the season, and USC had to lock in on both sides of the ball to win the game. The 81-71 final score is not indicative of the game, but there were certainly some positives as the Trojans prepare for a massive showdown with Oregon tonight.
Immediately following this game, Andy Enfield named Goodwin a team captain for the duration of the season. While no win ever falls squarely on one player, Goodwin’s effort tonight was about as close as you can get. When the Trojans needed a boost in the second half, they received a massive dose of Goodwin, both in terms of production and energy. Goodwin finished the game with a team high 20 points, and 12 rebounds, NINE of which were on the offensive end. In what was a pretty chippy game overall, Goodwin gave every ounce of effort to propel the Trojans to victory. He was relentless on the offensive glass, was diving for balls, taking elbows to the face/throat, and most importantly Chevez was able to put the ball in the hoop at an efficient 9-14 clip. If this teams needs to adopt a personality/mentality for the duration of the season, my vote goes to Chevez. Effort and energy like this are contagious, and you can see the rest of the team buy into it. A tremendous performance from Goodwin, and one that should motivate the rest of the team moving forward.
Dixon-Waters has been buried a bit in the rotation, and it is not for a lack of ability, there are simply more experienced players on the roster, but I expect this to change. Reese’s play on Thursday will force Andy to get him into the game more. RDW is averaging 10 minutes per game on the season, but the Freshman just turned in his best and most impactful performance as a Trojan. Dixon-Waters tied a career high 9 points, and was a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line. He also made a huge play late to steal a rebounded ball, and find an open Drew Peterson for a go-ahead three pointer. His FT shooting alone should warrant a floor spot in crunch time, but Dixon-Waters is also an aggressive defender, and can thrive in a physical setting with his mature frame. I am not sure who forfeits minutes with the rising status of Reese, but Andy will need to make room for him.
USC trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half, Oregon State Guard Jarod Lucas was having his way with the Trojans, and things were looking bleak. Insert huge plays for the Trojans! We have already touched on Goodwin’s massive impact in this game, but the other starters all made huge plays during the comeback. Isaiah Mobley had another quiet start, only scoring 4 1st half points, however when the Trojans needed him most, he took over. With the game Trojans down one with just 3:41 to go, Isaiah rattled off 6 straight points to give USC a five point lead. Mobley was aggressive, and looked to score. We have talked about this team’s need to develop a killer instinct, and this was the most assertive I have seen Mobley in his 3 years. Mobley finished with 11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.
Boogie Ellis, while not overly efficient from the field also had 14 points, the biggest two were a momentum changing steal and score, which spurred a 14-2 Trojan run to give USC the lead midway through the second half. Ellis looks poised to turn the corner on his outside shooting, he just needs to find the balance of 3 point attempts and driving, it has been one or the other too often, as his ability to score from anywhere only adds to his prowess as a scorer. It has been fun to see Ellis’ improvement on the defensive end. Boogie is an NBA talent, but he needs to fine tune his shot selection, and continue to dedicate himself to tough defense.
In the Stanford recap we spoke about the lack of offensive rebounding, and how it harmed the Trojans in their lone loss. Message received! USC grabbed 18 offensive rebounds against the Beavers and converted those into 14 second chance points. Of course half of the 18 belonged to Chevez, but overall a great effort from the other players to fight for the extra possession.
1st Half Defense
Oregon State shot an astonishing 58% in the first half, and 67% from 3. Granted, a good number of these shots were either contested or just good offense, but USC’s calling card has been stout defensive play, it was a bit alarming to see an overmatched and outclassed Oregon State team score so effortlessly in the first half. The Trojans stymied the Beavers in the second half, outscoring OSU by 15 points, but better teams will use the Stanford blue print, and will give USC all they can handle. Remember, Oregon State is now 3-12, this is not the Elite 8 team from last year. The final 10 minutes of this game are how the Trojans should play for 40 minutes. Enfield has the depth to require tough and active play, and USC needs to showcase it more often. Oregon, Arizona and UCLA are more talented teams, and if USC is unable to slow them down, we could be in for some long nights.
Dixon-Waters saved the Trojans a bit on this front, but USC was still just 18-27 from the line. We have seen poor FT shooting cost this team a game already, it must improve, no further evaluation needed.
While there is no statistic for loose ball recoveries, it seems like every time the ball was free Oregon State came away with it. While the Trojans thrived on the offensive glass, Oregon State was able to succeed in transition mainly due to hustle plays. These types of plays can determine the outcome of a game, and USC needs to play with a little bit more of an edge. It is entirely possible that USC had looked ahead to tonight’s matchup with a tough Oregon team, but lazy play should never be tolerated. The Trojans all need to play with a bit more of Chevez’s mentality and not be afraid to mix it up.
At the end of the day, USC improved to 14-1 and 4-1 in conference. Which leads to tonight’s massive matchup with the Oregon Ducks.
The Oregon Ducks entered the season ranked 12th and projected to finish 2nd in the conference behind UCLA. The season went sideways quickly for Dana Altman, as the Ducks lost 3 of 4, including a 32 point loss to BYU, a 12 point defeat to St. Mary’s and a 29 point loss to Houston. This has been a familiar path for Oregon, start slow and pick up steam as the season progresses. Like USC, Oregon has constantly improved via the transfer portal, and as this team has gelled they have improved. Currently the Ducks are on a four game winning streak, and visit Galen Center after an OT win against UCLA on Thursday for Dana Altman’s 700th career win. Make no mistake, on paper, Oregon is the best team the Trojans have played all year.
The Ducks are led by Guards Will Richardson and Jacob Young. Richardson, is a familiar foe, entering his 4th season as a Duck, and finally the go-to scorer for Oregon. Richardson teamed up with Chris Duarte for the past few years to form one of the more dangerous back courts in the nation, one that prides itself on tough defense and explosive offense. On the season, Richardson is averaging 13.6 points per game on 46% shooting. Richardson is not shy about the three point shot, and relies on the deep ball for the bulk of his scoring. At 6’5” he is a tough matchup for smaller guards, but should be a favorable matchup for the length of USC on the wings.
Jacob Young is a 6’3” Senior who found his way to Oregon via the transfer portal. Young had previously played at both Texas and Rutgers, and was a huge get for Altman this offseason. Young is averaging 11.3 points per game, and brings an attitude to the Ducks. He plays with a ton of passion, and backs down from nobody. Young is very creative around the basket, and uses angles and athleticism to find clean looks amongst the trees. Young rarely shoots three pointers, but still manages to beat defenders off the dribble. Young had 23 points against the Bruins and came up clutch in OT to seal the win for the Ducks.
Oklahoma Transfer De’Vion Harmon adds to the backcourt depth, averaging 10 points per game as well. The 6’2”Junior is a consistent scorer, reaching double digits in 9 of Oregon’s 16 games. Like Young, Harmon is physical and does most of his damage from the interior. He features a beautiful mid-range floater, designed to get over the hand of any defender, and he is accurate with it. Harmon’s style of play very much resembles Ethan Anderson, and it will be fascinating to see if these two go against each other at all.
On the inside, Oregon relies on Eric Williams Jr., N’Faly Dante and Quincy Guerrier. Dante is the tallest of the bunch standing at 6’11”, and averaging 8.6 points and 5.6 boards per game. Dante is a skilled offensive rebounder and features a selection of interior moves, but he is mainly a dunker. Chevez, Mobley and Morgan need to ensure a proper box-out on Dante to limit second chance points for the Ducks. Williams has been Altman’s 6th man for the majority of the year, but is the most skilled of the big men. The 6’7” Senior has been atypically inefficient from the field, shooting just 39% but his rebounding ability makes him a key cog in Altman’s rotation. Guerrier has been the beneficiary of Williams’ shooting struggles, as the 6’8” Canadian has moved into the starting lineup. Guerrier is averaging 8.4 points and 5 boards, but has shown enough to earn respect from beyond the arc. Guerrier is not the first, second or third option for the Ducks, but if the Trojans lose track of him, he can do a good deal of damage.
Will the Trojans put together 40 minutes?
USC will not survive if they consistently put themselves in holes. 10 point deficits are not easy to come back from, and a more talented team will bury USC is long possessions and efficient play. USC needs to come out strong and play solid basketball on both ends of the court. Unforced/careless turnovers and poor shot selection have been issues for the past few weeks, and USC needs to clean it up. Mobley and Peterson both need to be more aggressive and the other starters continue to do their part. Oregon is coming off a huge win, and smells blood in Los Angeles. USC needs to end their hopes of a SoCal sweep quickly and forcefully.
Who will get the start?
The matchups are tantalizing in this one. I think Anderson gets the nod to try and slow down Harmon, but I would not be shocked to see Max get the start and Enfield try to overwhelm both Young and Richardson with pure length.
Dante vs. Goodwin
Guerrier/Williams vs. Mobley
Richardson vs. Peterson
Young vs. Ellis
Harmon vs. Anderson
How hot are the Ducks?
A road victory at Pauley Pavilion has the potential to be a season-changing win for the Ducks, albeit with no fans in attendance. Oregon will enter the Galen Center with momentum and confidence, USC on the other hand suffered its first loss of the season earlier this week, had to come back from 10 points down against Oregon State, and now must play a third game in 5 days. These are not ideal circumstances, but I would expect that the both teams have had this one circled for some time. USC defeated the Ducks twice last season (including an 82-68 victory in the sweet sixteen), a statement after Covid issues allowed Oregon to claim a conference championship. Andy needs to emphasize the importance of this game. Again, Oregon is the most talented team USC has played to date, and USC needs to show up.
The Las Vegas experts have pegged USC as a 6 point favorite, and I think this is pretty spot on. If both teams bring their A game, USC wins. I do not think Oregon has a suitable response for Goodwin and Mobley inside, and I like the backcourt matchups. I think USC makes a statement against a hot team, and pulls this one by 8 points. If the game is close late, look for Dixon-Waters to get into the game to seal it from the line!