Thursday’s game between surging Southern California and No. 12 Oregon, the highest ranked Pac-12 Conference men’s team in the nation, is a meeting of the league’s comeback darlings.
The Ducks will host the Trojans, with both teams coming off wild victories over the weekend.
USC (15-3, 4-1 Pac-12) is coming off of an 82-78 overtime win over Stanford in Los Angeles, in which the Trojans trailed by as many as 21 points early in the second half. They trailed by five with 33 seconds left in regulation.
USC moved into a tie for first with the Cardinal, while Oregon (15-4, 4-2) is just a half-game back after a split with the Washington schools on the road. The Ducks avoided a sweep with a 64-61 overtime win over Washington in which Oregon trailed by 16 near the midway mark of the second half.
Oregon is 10-0 at home this season, while USC’s only true road loss was Jan. 5 in a miserable effort at Washington, when they were crushed 72-40.
The Ducks are led by guard Payton Pritchard, who needs four assists to become the sixth player in Pac-12 history with 1,500 career points and 600 career assists. He’ll also become the first player in Pac-12 history with 1,500 career points, 600 career assists and 500 career rebounds.
“I’ll be there to make that play. Take that shot. Make that pass,” Pritchard told the Oregon athletics website after he sank the winning shot to beat Washington last Saturday.
“We’ve been in that situation more than we probably care to be,” Oregon assistant coach Tony Stubblefield said Tuesday on the Oregon Sports Network podcast. “We have been there, and guys just stuck with it and had faith in coach (Dana) Altman and what he wanted to get done.”
The Trojans will be buoyed by their win over Stanford. Their 21-point comeback was the largest second-half deficit overcome in a victory in Pac-12 history.
“This gives us great confidence,” coach Andy Enfield told the Los Angeles Times after Saturday’s win. “We were confident going into (Saturday), but to win like this gives you another jolt. This was special. This doesn’t happen often.”
Freshman Onyeka Okongwu averages 16.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots per game, with a 61.7 field-goal percentage this season. He had 22 points against Stanford.
But USC will have to overcome some history. The Trojans have lost eight of their past nine games in Eugene, Ore., but are hoping they’ve turned a corner with the solid start to the season.
“We had a couple games before where we got down, and we started to give up,” guard Elijah Weaver said. “This (Stanford) game just goes to show that we have a lot of resilience.”
Stubblefield said the Ducks will have to defend and rebound to win. The Trojans have 99 more rebounds than their opponents this year and are out-rebounding teams 40.4-34.9 per game.
“We’re going to have our work cut out for us,” Stubblefield said. “We can’t have a letdown.”
–Field Level Media