2018 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament semifinals: USC-Oregon preview
When: 8:30 p.m. PT / 9:30 p.m. MT
Tune in: FOX Sports 1
LAS VEGAS -- Friday night promises to be an exciting one, as USC and Oregon are set to square off in the second semifinal of the 2018 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament. The winner will face the victor of Friday’s early game between top-seeded Arizona and No. 4 seed UCLA, which will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks and the Pac-12 Now app.
The two teams took different paths to their respective victories in the quarterfinals. The Trojans were able to control the tempo against Oregon State in a wire-to-wire, 61-48 victory on Friday, as Chimezie Metu scored 22 points, grabbed 11 boards and blocked two shots in his usual high-flying fashion.
“We're just going out there and having fun,” Metu said. “It's that time of the year. It's March. Any game could be your last game. So we're just going out there and playing hard.”
The Ducks, meanwhile, needed a furious rally and some last-minute heroics from MiKyle McIntosh and Kenny Wooten to top No. 3 seed Utah, 68-66. Despite trailing by as many as 11 midway through the second half, clutch free throws and a key and-one conversion by McIntosh put the Ducks ahead with just 1:02 left in the game. Wooten put an exclamation mark on the contest with an emphatic block to seal the victory for the Ducks.
USC has claimed a pair of close wins against Oregon in the schools’ two meetings so far this season. Back on Jan. 18, the Trojans rolled out of Eugene with a 75-70 win before earning a 72-70 victory over the Ducks at the Galen Center on Feb. 15. Both matchups were back-and-forth affairs but USC found ways to finish strong in each victory.
“Both of them went down to the last possession,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “So we're going to have to do a better job, obviously. They're a very gifted team, very athletic. We're going to have to play as good or better than we did tonight.”
On Friday night, point-guard play will be a focus. Oregon’s Payton Pritchard and USC’s Jordan McLaughlin are the on-floor leaders of their respective squads and consistently feeding their teammates for scoring opportunities.
USC isn’t the same without sharpshooting forward Bennie Boatwright to spread out the floor, but Metu, McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart remain a handful to deal with. The Trojans are already familiar with McIntosh, who torched them in the January meeting, but USC also needs to keep an eye on senior guard Elijah Brown, who scored a game-high 21 on Friday.
While the Trojans (22-10, 12-6 Pac-12) have the resume of a bubble team, the Ducks (22-11, 10-8) are in a position where they likely need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to get to the Big Dance.