Final Score: Oregon State 51, USC 45
Last year, it was a home upset over USC that turned the season around for Oregon St., and Thursday night's 51-45 comeback Beaver win over the Trojans had a lot of similarities, just when OSU needed it.
Once again Oregon St. fell behind early, as USC opened the game with four offensive rebounds on the first possession, and an 8-1 spurt. But the Beavers survived, by starting their comeback sooner, and before they fell so far back. The largest deficit was ten points halfway thru the first half, but when the Trojans left a ball rolling around unattended, Josh Tarver scooped and swooped for a crowd arousing dunk to cut the deficit to five points. Seth Tarver's basket capped a 16-6 OSU run that tied the game with 3:18 left.
The Trojans pulled back ahead by five points, taking a 27-22 lead to the locker room, but the foul trouble that made a big difference was already adding up. The Trojans' Alex Stephenson had his third foul with just under two minutes left in the first half, and got his fourth foul with over nine minutes left in the game.
Marcus Johnson opened the second half by extending the USC lead to seven, but that was as far ahead as the Trojans would get.
Calvin Haynes answered with a pair of free throws, and the OSU rally was on. Roeland Schaftenaar gave the Beavers the lead for good with a layup for a 35-34 lead with 11:30 left, and a Haynes jumper pushed the Oregon St. lead to seven points with just under seven minutes left.
Haynes went on to high scoring honors, with 25 points, and Schaftenaar was also in double digits, with 10 points. Nikola Vucevic led USC with 12 only points.
"Yeah, it's just a rhythm and working I guess," Haynes said. "I've been working hard in practice, everyone has. I feel like the team is starting to click more. They're looking for me, so it's not just me trying to go out and score 25. That's not what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to help my team win. So, if scoring 25 and finding open shots and making free throws helps us win, then I'm happy with that."
But more important than the points or rebounds Schaftenaar tallied was the way he played. Roe looked like he meant business, almost mad at times, and his intensity spilled over to the rest of the team.
Defense was the difference, as Oregon St.'s trapping defense had 10 steals, and the Beavers scored 22 points off turnovers, the same formula that upset USC the last time they visited Corvallis. The Trojans were over their season turnover average with 11 minutes left, and eventually lost the ball 19 times.
But more than that, Oregon St. managed to make USC play the game in their style. Much of the game, it was necessary to check the jerseys to determine which team was which. The Trojans' 2-3 zone defense allowed Oregon St. to play at their preferred pace, though, and USC struggled to solve the Beavers' defense all night long. And OSU, being much more familiar with the style of play, was much the better at it that the Trojans, normally more a man-to-man, up and down the floor type of team.
USC coach Kevin O'Neill observed "The 1-3-1 defense produces half court pressure, and we're not good against half court anything, unfortunately. We turned it over a few too many times. We had plenty of chances. Dwight (Lewis) and Marcus (Johnson) go 2 for 12, and 4 for 14. It's hard to win like that. We had several stops at the end where we gave a couple of offensive rebounds and baskets that ultimately cost us the game. What can you say? It's unfortunate.
Oregon St. coach Craig Robinson was satisfied with the defensive struggle.
"I thought our guys were tough today. It has been a long time coming, and it was just a fun thing to see. I thought it would be a shame not to play well after the hard week we had this week. Every single one of these guys, even the ones who didn't play in the game, helped us win this game, by portraying USC, and the way that they play. I thought our 1-3-1 was fantastic. It looked long, it looked like you couldn't see passing angles, and so I am really happy."
Oregon St. made only 15 shots from the field, and only six in the first half, but was 18 of 24 at the line, including six of eight in the final three minutes. Haynes had the honor of the last two for the final six point margin.
Jared Cunningham wasn't able to duplicate his impressive performances of last week in the bay area, but did bring an energy level to the defense early that the stat sheet doesn't show. Cunningham's minutes were curbed in part by a pair of early charging fouls. The freshman would do well to copy one thing from Haynes, the pull-up mid-range jumper. We can debate the validity of the calls, but one thing everyone can agree on is if you can take the Pac-10 officials out of the equation, there won't be anything to debate. And with the way Cunningham drives, the ability to let the defense move past while elevating for an open look can lead to easier baskets than banging into big bodies.
The game also featured an appearance by Calvin Hampton, who had almost disappeared off the end of the bench of late.
Oregon St. improved to 9-11, and 3-5 in the Pac-10, while USC dropped to 12-8, and is one of five teams tied with 4-4 conference marks. Coupled with Oregon's 71-66 win in overtime over UCLA, the Beavers are tied with Washington and Oregon for eighth thru tenth in the Pac-10, but the three northwest teams are only two games out of second place heading into Saturday's action that will conclude the first half of the conference race. UCLA is another of those teams in the 4-4 logjam, and the Beavers can pass the Bruins (with the tiebreaker) with a win in the 4:30 game to be televised as both of tonight's games in the valley were by Fox Sports Northwest.