For those counting, USC experienced its second rebirth of the season Saturday night at Oregon’s McArthur Court.
After falling like a paperweight at home to UCLA, and giving up two days later to Cincinnati, the Trojans traveled north to start anew and they feel they did just that with a 79-69 upset of the Ducks in front of 10,024.
Gone is the USC that dropped off the Pacific 10 Conference planet a week ago against the Bruins, and back is the team that filled itself with grand thoughts after upsetting Arizona on Jan. 16, the team that sits only one game out of first after sweeping the Oregon schools for the first time since the 1993-94 season .
“Our whole thinking was that we lost one to UCLA at home and we needed to make that game up,” USC Coach Henry Bibby said. “We couldn’t split. We needed two games and our guys met the challenge.”
Meeting the challenge the most was guard Stais Boseman, who scored 16 points and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds. Add in Elias Ayuso’s 21, with five-of-seven shooting from three-point range, and 11 each from Jarvis Turner and Gary Johnson and you have what well-traveled Rodrick Rhodes called: “The biggest win of my career. Ever.”
Continued Rhodes, who hugged Bibby after the game: “This is a big win for the USC program. This puts us near the top of the Pac-10. We can control our own destiny.”
Similar comments were made after the Arizona upset, a game that leaned USC’s way much as Saturday’s did--because of good defense, an edge in rebounding and big shots from players USC hasn’t been able to count on every time this season, such as Boseman.
“It’s frustrating because you see tonight what Stais is capable of,” Bibby said.
The Trojans (11-7, 6-3) trailed at the half, 34-27. But they improved their shooting by 24% in the second half (29% to 53%) and outrebounded the Ducks, 25-10, after the intermission and 48-28 for the game. Oregon Coach Jerry Green called the second half “a whole different atmosphere.”
It was, as games tend to be at McArthur, an emotional confrontation. Too much talking got Jamal Lawrence a technical in the first half, and Bibby was given one after charging on the court to argue a traveling call on Rhodes in the second.
Both paled to the Rodmanesque head-butt USC’s Gary Williams delivered to Andre Larry while Larry was talking up a three-point basket that tied the score, 52-52, with 10:51 left.
With Oregon (12-6, 3-6) leading, 61-60, USC made its winning run, started by a tip-in by Rhodes and another by Jaha Wilson that put USC up, 64-61.
Rhodes made it 66-62 after a Kyle Milling free throw, before another Milling free throw got Oregon within three with 4:11 left. It was then, on back-to-back possessions, that Ayuso made one of several key three-point shots and then, off a steal by Boseman, a layup for a 71-63 Trojan lead with 2:43 left.
"[Ayuso] makes big shots for us,” Bibby said. “I even drew up a couple of shots for him after timeouts because we know he can knock down the three-point shot.”