Weird things can happen when a team fires their coach. An interim coach comes in and gets a team to play on emotions, enabling them to play at a higher level. USC was looking to capitalize on such a situation as their game against the Oregon Ducks was the first after firing head coach Kevin O’Neill and placing Bob Cantu temporarily at the helm.
Oregon, fresh off wins against Arizona and Arizona State, was determined to not let USC spoil a productive win streak and gutted out a back-and-forth game to come out with a 76-74 win and improve to 15-2.
Throughout the game USC gave Oregon all they could handle, consistently countering runs by the Ducks with runs of their own, but Oregon was able to withstand the Trojans by out-rebounding them, playing stellar post defense, and hitting big shots when they needed them the most.
J.T. Terrell and Eric Wise were most impressive for the Trojans and never let the Ducks’ lead stretch too far. Terrell had a game-high 22 points while Wise put in 17 points and six rebounds.
Some of the most impressive play came courtesy of freshman point guard Dominic Artis. Artis showed poise beyond his years, something Duck fans have come to expect, throughout the entire game. Artis showed off his play-making ability, tallying six assists, and also knew when to take control offensively, for example when he hit back-to-back three pointers in the opening minutes of the second half to give the Ducks some breathing room.
Turning Point. With seven minutes left in the game Senior E.J. Singler put the team on his back and outplayed everyone on the floor for a four-minute stretch. He showed his ability to make plays both defensively and offensively, out-hustling his opponent.
In the four-minute stretch he got an offensive rebound, forced a jump ball, dished out three dimes, and scored two buckets. One was a tear drop in the lane over 7-foot-2 Trojan center Omar Oraby and the second a three pointer to push the lead to ten.
Singler finished the game with 14 points, six rebounds and seven assists. His four-minute stretch of dominance kept the Trojans at bay, but it was perhaps his last play that had the biggest impact. With two seconds to go the Ducks had a one-point lead with Arsalan Kazemi at the line. He missed the free throw but Singler grabbed it and threw it up as time expired, ensuring an Oregon victory.
On the Horizon. Next up Oregon will take on No. 24 UCLA to determine who will be on top of the Pac-12. Holding off scoring runs against UCLA will surely be much harder than it was against USC, and if Oregon wants to continue climbing in the polls they will need to play a more polished game.
Oregon and UCLA tip off Saturday at 1 p.m. in Los Angeles.