USC has had some ugly halves this year.
At home against Nebraska in November, USC put up only 22 points in the final 20 minutes to squander a great opportunity. At Oregon State in January, the Trojans scored 18 in the second half to blow a five-point halftime lead. And even last Saturday in Pullman, Wash., USC had only 19 points in the first half, eventually losing by four to Washington State.
But none of those cold moments compare to the second half the Trojans experienced Thursday night at the Galen Center against visiting Oregon. Ahead 32-23 at the break, USC scored only 12 points to Oregon's 31 in the second half.
The Trojans ended up losing 54-44 — the collective victims of an altogether low energy level, 18 turnovers, and poor shooting.
"We just didn't have it tonight," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said. "Let’s face it, if you score 12 points in a half at this level, you're not going to beat anybody. That’s the plain and simple fact of it.”
There were many explanations for Oregon's offensive outburst of sorts in the second half. O'Neill offered one.
“They were getting to the basket," he said. "We weren’t.”
Oregon coach Ernie Kent offered another: "Tonight USC didn't have answers for our offense."
But the more complex one came from USC's Mike Gerrity, who lamented a lack of good execution on defense.
"We knew they had the ability to put some points on the board fast," Gerrity said. "We tried to limit that."
USC still remarkably out-rebounded the Ducks 47-26 and outscored them in the paint 26-20. But perhaps even more remarkably, considering that stat, the Trojans still lost.
"I think that our bigs did a pretty good job on them in the paint," said USC forward Nikola Vucevic, who recorded 16 rebounds. "But as soon as we started missing shots we just stopped playing on both ends of the court."
Player of the game: Oregon's Tajuan Porter wasn't exactly efficient from the field, but he did lead all scorers with 16 points. The 5-foot-7, 155-pound point guard struggled against the Trojans last month in Eugene and has traditionally struggled on the road, but he played a strong game Thursday, producing four steals and three assists with no tunovers.
"He just played his heart out tonight," Kent said of his senior guard. "He is the guy who came through big for us tonight."
Play of the game: With a little more than a minute left in the game, USC was down 47-44 with the ball and a chance to tie the score. But a Gerrity 3-point attempt came up short, and Porter hit a big 3-pointer out of a timeout to clinch the victory.
Immediately after, Porter stole the ball away from Gerrity and dished it to LeKendric Longmire for an easy layup.
Within 30 seconds of the initial shot, fans were filing out of the Galen Center at an unbelievable rate
Quote of the game: "Our team is, in my estimation, starting to wear down," O'Neill said. "When your three seniors shoot five of 17, three of 14 and 0 of 7, it’s very difficult to win."
O'Neill highlighted the shooting efforts of his three fourth-years — guards Marcus Johnson and Dwight Lewis plus Gerrity — but he didn't seem to put the blame on them.
In all, USC's four top scorers shot 22 percent from the field. Asked if he agreed with his coach's assessment, Gerrity hesitated.
"I mean, sure," Gerrity said. "I don't think I necessarily want to believe that because we're competitors and we want to win.
"But there's really no excuse."
Notes: With the loss, USC moves into a three-way tie for third in the Pac-10. The best finish the Trojans can achieve now is a share of first — assuming they win out. ... The USC women managed to top Oregon, 87-84, in Eugene, as point guard Ashley Corral scored a game-high 23 points. The announcement of the score in the first half brought considerable applause from the 6,152 fans in attendance at the Galen Center. ... USC assistant coach Bob Cantu was seen speaking with Athletic Director Mike Garrett inside the USC locker room just as reporters entered. Both men were in Tempe, Ariz. last Saturday for a hearing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions.