USC Blocks Oregon St. Comeback

Oregon St.'s Roberto Nelson battles USC's Dewayne Dedmon. Nelson posted a game high 26 points, and Dedmon fouled out with 4 minutes left, but the Trojans still beat the Beavers by 1 point. - (AP Photo by Gus Ruelas)

Final Score: USC 69 Oregon St. 68

Oregon St. rallied from a 15 point deficit to make a game of it, but Devon Collier's shot for the win was blocked, and USC had the win in a game that saw 8 lead changes on the last 8 scores in the final 2:21.

It "wasted" a 26 point game high performance by the Beavers' Roberto Nelson, who was 7 of 15 from the field to go with a perfect 10 of 10 at the free throw line. The loss was also another in a reoccurring pattern where Oregon St. has suffered a mid-game slump, falling way behind, and having to mount a furious comeback, which has repeatedly happened, but also repeatedly fallen short.

Most of the first half was a highly competitive, back and forth contest, after Oregon St. made 5 of their first 7 shots. But after a 24-24 tie with 7:50 left, USC went on an 8-0 run in 2 minutes, and after an Olaf Schaftenaar 3 pointer with 4:13 left, Oregon St. didn't make another shot from the floor in the half, and didn't even score for over 4 minutes. As a result, the Trojans took a 39-31 halftime lead.

Nelson and Collier co-lead the Beavers at the break, with 9 points apiece, while USC's Byron Wesley led everyone, with 12 points.

The Beavers weren't any more prepared to play at the beginning of the second half as the Oregon St. radio production staff, and the Trojans roared out of the locker room with a 7-0 run, while the Beavers were confused, and the radio broadcast played commercials.

"We've got to learn, me included, that we can't play partial games," Oregon St. head coach Craig Robinson said. "That minute and a half cost us the game."

Down 15 points, 46-31, Robinson called a time out a minute and a half into the second half, and it paid huge dividends.

USC's Dewayne Dedmon picked up his third personal foul, and Collier made a layup that ended the Beavers' field goal drought of over 6 minutes, and Oregon St. was on their way to an 18-2 run.

Oregon St.'s 1-3-1 zone defense was the cause, thoroughly frustrating USC. Coupled with an occasional change up to the 2-3 zone, the Beaver defense held the Trojans scoreless for 5 3/4 minutes, forcing 7 turnovers while committing none themselves in the process.

Eric Moreland, back in action after missing the last 3 Oregon St. games due to a back problem and a suspension for violation of team rules, tied the game at 48 all at the 12:22 point, and after Dedmon picked up his 4th foul, Joe Burton pushed the Beavers ahead with 11:15 left.

That finally woke USC up, as Wesley finally snapped the Trojan scoreless streak with a free throw, and J.T. Terrell's 3 pointer put the Trojans back ahead.

The game was back and forth the rest of the way, and though Oregon St. took the lead on multiple occasions, it was never by more than 1 point.

As time wound down, Burton and Wesley exchanged layups, and the teams the lead, as the game approached its final minute. Nelson put Oregon St. up 66-65 with the last of his 26 points with 45 seconds left, and the Beaver defense forced Terrell into a turnover with 30 seconds remaining.

But Moreland wasn't ready for Burton's inbound pass, and Eric Wise scored to put the Trojans back ahead by 1 with 26 seconds left.

Burton powered in a basket to give Oregon St. the lead with 12 seconds left, but Aaron Fuller scored his only basket of the night to put USC ahead with 4 seconds left.

After a time out with 3.8 seconds left, the Beavers got the ball to Collier in the lane, but his shot, and Oregon St.'s hope for their first conference win of the season was blocked by Wise, and the Trojan's interim coach Bob Cantu had his first career win.

"We thought about having Roberto take a shot, as well as he was playing, but Devon is capable of getting the ball up on the glass, even if he is fouled, and he might have been," Robinson explained of the last possession. I think it might be more than 'might'."

In addition to Nelson, both Burton and Collier were in double figures, with 16 points each, and Collier and Moreland also had co-game highs of 8 rebounds.

Wesley led USC with 19 points, and Wise was right behind, with 18. Terrell rounded out the double digits on the score sheet, with 11 points.

Ahmad Starks was a non factor, taking (and missing) only 1 shot, a 3 pointer, and went scoreless in 20 minutes played. Jarmal Reid played a solid defensive game, but continues to be a non-contributor to the Oregon St. offense, with only 2 points.

Not that there was anything coming off the bench; the Beavers only got 8 points from 5 reserves, who played a combined 70 minutes.

Oregon St. fell to 10-8, and 0-5 in the Pac-12 Conference, having lost 6 of their last 7 games.

The Beavers return home for a series against the Washington teams next, with a late, 8:30 (for tv) game against the Huskies Wednesday night up next.

USC improved to 8-11, and 3-3 in conference play. Trojan Athletic Director Pat Haden fired former USC coach Kevin O'Neill Monday, and elevated Cantu, who has been an assistant at USC under the last 4 coaches, for 12 years, and has been the interim head coach once before. Cantu got the Trojans to threaten league leading Oregon Thursday night, rallying from 10 down only to lose 76-74. Tonight, he got his first win, at Oregon St.'s expense.

The Trojans travel to the Arizona schools next.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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