Trojans Play Bah Humbug Opener : Oregon State Holds Off USC Down Stretch to Win, 68-64

Times Staff Writer

USC Coach Stan Morrison said ruefully Sunday night that his team's 68-64 loss at the hands of Oregon State was "a lousy way to start Christmas."

It certainly was a "lousy way" for his Trojans to open play in the Pacific 10 basketball race. USC struggled throughout the second half to catch up, but just couldn't reach the Beavers in a loosly played basketball game at the Sports Arena.

Oregon State won by cashing in on free throws in the final 72 seconds before a small crowd of 3,726.

The statistics would indicate that Oregon State should have won by a larger margin. It out-rebounded USC, 37-23, and outshot the Trojans, 52% to 40%.

USC stayed close by forcing Oregon State into 19 turnovers (the Trojans had only 7) with 14 coming on steals.

"That was a kind of a game that will show our staff and players," Morrison said, "that we must find a number of ways to win when we play our next game, whether it be at the free throw line, and without some ill-advised passes and some bad decisions.

"But I liked our tenacity. We played hard for 40 minutes, but not with the level of maturity we'll have by the end of the season."

USC is now 4-5 this season, Oregon State 3-3.

If there was a difference between the teams, it was probably the presence of 6-foot-10 Jose Ortiz, who just became eligible for the Beavers. Ortiz, a member of the Puerto Rican national team, was in foul trouble part of the game and fouled out with 1:23 left.

But he was a factor around the basket in the waning minutes, scoring to hold off repeated surges by the Trojans. He finished with 18 points and 8 rebounds while playing only 27 minutes.

Asked the difference between international and collegiate competition, Ortiz said, "Foul trouble. I was told that by my coach (Ralph Miller) and teammates. You can't touch anyone here."

Bodies were flying all over the floor in the second half, as the officials appeared willing to let the teams bang away at each other. It was hardly a finesse game.

Morrison's best lineup seemed to consist of center Charlie Simpson, forwards Bo Kimble and Derrick Dowell and guards Larry Friend and Tom Lewis. Although Dowell was in foul trouble by halftime, he did his best to carry the Trojans, getting 16 points, 7 rebounds and 5 steals.

"We're nowhere near our potential. We have a long way to go," said Dowell, a 6-6 forward. "I know we've improved, but I look at things in a negative way. I'm a perfectionist.

"I think the difference in the game was some noncalls by the officials. But the refs were calling them as they saw it."

Simpson, an inconsistent player in the past, was hustling all over the court Sunday night. He scored 10 points, equaling a career high, and took off 5 rebounds.

"I think it was just too early for a Pac-10 opener," Simpson said. "We needed more nonconference games."

Morrison said he was surprised that his team trailed, 30-26, at halftime, considering that Oregon State had nine more rebounds than USC, which shot only 30% in the first 20 minutes.

The Beavers couldn't shake the Trojans in the second half and the lead changed hands six times before Oregon State began to pull away by slight margins.

Dowell led still another charge when he hit a short jump shot to cut OSU's lead to 57-55 with 4:05 remaining. But Ortiz countered with a stuff shot.

Then, Kimble threw away a pass intended for Dowell and the Beavers started going to the free throw line. Darrin Houston, Tyrone Miller and freshman Van Anderson each made a pair of three throws in the waning seconds.

Lewis was guarded closely by the Beavers, but the freshman from Mater Dei High School still managed to get 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting.

Morrison has picked Oregon State to win the Pac-10 championship and Miller's team could be a contender if Ortiz stays out of of foul trouble and asserts himself as he did Sunday night.

USC now returns to nonconference competition, a game with Creighton next Saturday afternoon at the Sports Arena. The Trojans don't play another league game until they meet Oregon Jan. 5 at the Forum.

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