Prepping for Oregon

Four games are left in USC's season — or eight hours of basketball, as coach Kevin O'Neill put it this week.

But the regular season Pac-10 conference title is still in reach for the Trojans. While they don't exactly control their destiny, victories in each of their last four games would give them a strong chance to grab the honor.

At 8-6 in conference play, USC is alone in third place. Arizona State is a game in front, and California is in first with a 10-5 record. Winning out would mean the Trojans would finish no worse than second.

But don't tell them that, of course. The focus is still on Thursday's game with Oregon, set for 7:30 p.m. at the Galen Center.

The Trojans lost to the Ducks in Eugene last month, 67-57. Oregon's Malcolm Armstead and Jeremy Jacob combined for 37 points.

"It was tied at 47 with four minutes left, so we played a pretty good game," O'Neill said before alluding to the now-infamous Stan Holt debacle, where the graduate student manager drew a technical foul and was ejected from the game. He was fired soon after and then reinstated by O'Neill.

"Then the momentum changed, obviously," O'Neill continued. We know what happened during that game."

Incidentally, the Ducks haven't won a game in five tries since then. But that didn't stop O'Neill from praising an Oregon team he says is very well-rounded.

"I think they have a lot of good players," O'Neill said Wednesday. He went on to spotlight Oregon's LeKendric Longmire and Michael Dunigan — neither of whom played big roles in the previous game between the two schools.

Oregon coach Ernie Kenthad similar praise for his counterpart this week, saying he held O'Neill's team in very high regard.

"They are a very good basketball team that is very well coached," said Kent, who's rumored to be on his way out at Oregon. "They have a certain style of play that bothers people."

We'll have more from the Galen Center in advance of Thursday's game.

Notes: Former USC player Mosi Tatupu, father of recent USC linebacker Lofa Tatupu, died late Tuesday at 54, the school announced in a news release. ... The USC baseball team lost an exhibition game to Japanese Rikkyo University on Wednesday at Dedeaux Field, 9-0. Rikkyo, which lost to UC Irvine on Tuesday in an exhibition, used wood bats. ... Lewis will be one of four seniors to be honored in Saturday's Senior Night festivities, which will also feature Mike Gerrity, Marcus Johnson, and Kasey Cunningham. Lewis' parents are in town from Texas for the occasion.