USC discovered in a little more than one half Friday night what UCLA had needed 39 minutes 59 seconds to learn.
Matthew Knight Arena is the place where undefeated seasons go to die.
The No. 22 Trojans were maimed by No. 21 Oregon, 84-61, ending their unbeaten run in lopsided fashion two days after the Bruins had suffered their first setback of the season on a last-second shot on the same court.
Too bad for Oregon that unbeaten Villanova, Baylor, Gonzaga and Creighton aren’t also on the Ducks’ home schedule.
There was no need for Oregon fans to storm the court 48 hours after Dillon Brooks’ game-winning three-pointer against UCLA. The drama was lacking after the Ducks took a 25-point lead less than six minutes into the second half on the way to their 35th consecutive victory here, the second-longest home winning streak in the nation.
“This was probably the worst we could have played,” said USC guard Jordan McLaughlin, who made one of six shots and had three turnovers to go with 10 points and four assists.
The 23-point defeat certainly felt like an indictment of the Trojans’ nonconference schedule, which had not included a ranked opponent amid their 14 consecutive victories to start the season.
The Ducks (13-2 overall, 2-0 Pac-12 Conference) shrugged off a few sluggish pockets in the early going, opening the second half with a 26-6 run to secure their 13th straight victory over USC (14-1, 1-1). They were bouncier, longer, more determined and just better than the Trojans.
Oregon’s desire was illustrated with about 41/2 minutes left when forward Kavell Bigby-Williams blocked not one but two shots by USC’s Chimezie Metu, who missed 11 of his 12 shots and finished with four points and 11 rebounds.
“Their length bothered us a little bit, they made us take tough shots on the offensive end and they got a couple of easy ones in transition,” McLaughlin said. “That got them all going and it was just down from there for us.”
The Trojans shot 31% and it looked every bit as ugly. USC Coach Andy Enfield stomped onto the court after Charles Buggs picked up a foul early in the second half, the Trojans trailing by 17 points. It would only get worse as the Ducks led by as many as 31.
“You can’t turn the ball over and miss easy shots and expect to have a chance to beat this team, especially here at this arena, so give them credit,” Enfield said. “They outplayed us tonight.”
Brooks scored the game’s first basket on a three-pointer and never slowed, tallying 28 points while making nine of 10 shots and all four three-point attempts. Meanwhile, USC was finding new and creative ways to give the Ducks the ball, committing 17 turnovers.
“We dribbled the ball off our foot a few times in transition, we dribbled off their foot, we had some easy passes that were just soft passes that we dropped and went out of bounds and then we couldn’t finish in the paint,” Enfield said, noting that his team entered the game among the nation’s leaders by averaging only 10.5 turnovers per game.
Whereas UCLA-Oregon was up and down, packed with high-flying action, USC-Oregon was grit and grind in the early going, each possession nearly 30 seconds of drudgery.
The Trojans’ active defense forced a shot-clock violation and a handful of Oregon possessions ended in rushed shots. The Ducks were ahead, 38-29, at halftime before things changed dramatically.
“This is the worst we’ve played all year and it’s only up from here,” McLaughlin said. “That’s what the coaches said, that’s what we believe and we’ve just got to go back to L.A. and it starts in practice our first day back. We’ve got to ramp it up and take it to a whole other level.”