This is the toughest place to play basketball in the Pacific 10 Conference.
Yet, USC’s Dwight Lewis and DeMar DeRozan were able to yuck it up from the bench on Friday as they watched reserves mop up in an 83-62 victory over Oregon.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Lewis said about the Ducks. “They kept in it until we got on their shooters and blew the game open.”
Such pats on the head are rarely handed down to the Ducks at home, where the only place steamier than their McArthur Court is the visiting team’s locker room.
But there USC guard Daniel Hackett was, enjoying the sauna after a game in which the Trojans had to sweat very little after halftime.
“You feel the heat in this locker room?” Hackett said. “We come up here and they turn the heat way up. Guys cramp up and get tired. That’s why this place is tough.”
This time, though, it was the Ducks who couldn’t stand the heat in the second half of the teams’ conference opener. The Trojans took control of the game right after the break with four consecutive baskets -- three layups, one dunk -- to erase a 36-34 Oregon lead.
USC (10-3 overall, 1-0 in conference play) never trailed again.
The Trojans’ 49-point second half included two relentless processions:
One was the Trojans to the basket, on what looked like an extended layup drill.
The other was Oregon fans trudging to the exits, muttering about the Ducks’ worst home defeat since Arizona State beat them, 99-72, on Feb. 4, 2001.
The Trojans have won four consecutive games at McArthur Court. Since 1970, there have been only four longer streaks -- with good reason.
“The fans start heckling you as soon as you walk in,” USC forward Taj Gibson said.
"[But] Coach [Tim] Floyd always tells us that a fan has never made a shot during a game here. We just play and don’t listen.”
Still, Gibson added, “We made a point to come in and quiet them.”
That was hard to do in the first half. Gibson, the Trojans’ best inside man, played only 10 minutes because of foul trouble.
The Trojans survived.
Lewis had 11 points in the first half, on the way to matching his career high of 26. DeRozan had 10 rebounds and finished with his first double-double -- 14 points, 12 rebounds.
Hackett, the floor leader, finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
“We tried to keep the team calm,” Lewis said. “It was a kind of rowdy time, with everyone getting in foul trouble. We tried not to let the game go and have the crowd get into it.”
There was no chance of that after halftime. The Trojans opened with a 12-2 run and shot 59% in the second half, with 14 of their 19 field goals coming from within five feet of the basket.
The Ducks (6-7, 0-1) couldn’t keep up, shooting 37% for the game.
“I thought the first four minutes we were able to get cheap baskets, get it to the rim and get some foul shots,” Floyd said. “So we got a little confidence.”
Gibson joined in, finishing with 13 points to top 1,000 in his career. He also had two blocked shots to set a USC career record with 195.
“We have veteran guys and that’s very important coming into this gym,” Floyd said. “We have four guys who have played significant minutes. That core gives us playing sense on the road.”