Ducks Dominate No. 5 USC to Complete Historic Road Sweep
LOS ANGELES — The Oregon men's basketball team completed a historic road sweep against back-to-back top-five opponents on Saturday night, leading from start to finish in a dominant 79-69 win over No. 5 USC at the Galen Center.
Two days after defeating No. 3 UCLA in overtime to secure the 700th career win for head coach Dana Altman, the Ducks (11-6, 4-2 Pac-12) built a 16-point halftime lead behind 50.0 percent shooting from the field and 47.6 percent from three-point range to give the Trojans just their second loss of the season.
Oregon is the first Pac-12 team ever to sweep a conference road trip vs. two top-10 ranked teams, and the Ducks earned wins over top-five opponents in back-to-back games for the first time in program history. UO had defeated a top-five conference team on the road just once in its history prior to this weekend, a victory at No. 5 UCLA on Feb. 21, 1976.
"We needed a big week," Altman said. "We know that, and our guys knew that. I've been talking about a sense of urgency since before the Baylor game; we can't bury ourselves any further. We still don't have any room for error. We have to bring it every night and that sense of urgency is going to have to come every night.
"We needed it. We needed something to jumpstart us. Three road wins this week, and now we go home, and we're going to have our hands full at home. We've got to get back and get better. The exciting thing is I still think we have so much room to grow."
How It Happened: After a hot shooting finish to beat the Bruins on Thursday, the Ducks picked up where they left off by going 7-of-11 (63.6%) from three-point range and 17-of-30 (56.7%) from the floor in the first half Saturday to lead 45-29 at halftime.
Will Richardson led the way with 19 first-half points while going 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, including a pair of triples in the final three minutes. The Ducks led 32-27 with four minutes left in the half before finishing on a 13-2 run, ignited by five straight Richardson points. Eric Williams Jr. made it a 12-point Oregon lead with a steal and breakaway dunk, and Richardson hit a three with 44 seconds left before Williams beat the buzzer with a deep three to put Oregon up by 16.
De'Vion Harmon joined Richardson in double figures in the first half with 10 points, and N'Faly Dante started the night 3-of-3 from the floor for six points. The Ducks converted eight USC turnovers into 14 points in the first half.
The Ducks cooled down in the second half while getting outscored 40-34, but USC was unable to get closer than nine points as Oregon finished off an unprecedented road sweep in Los Angeles.
Back-to-back buckets by Richardson and Dante gave UO its largest lead of the night at 18 points in the first three minutes of the second half, and a lay-in by Jacob Young made it 55-37 a couple minutes later. Oregon led by 15 with 6:24 to play when USC went on a 6-0 run to make it a nine-point game, but Richardson got the Ducks' lead back to 14 with a pair of free throws and a triple. Oregon led by double digits the rest of the way to finish off the upset victory.
The Ducks converted 13 total USC turnovers on the night into 22 points, and Oregon finished with 15 fast break points.
Who Stood Out: Richardson powered the Ducks with a career-high 28 points, matching his career-highs for both made field goals (9) and three-pointers (5). The senior added four rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Harmon went 6-of-11 from the field for 16 points, and Dante shot 6-of-7 for 12 points while leading the team with seven boards. Young had eight points and four assists, and Williams finished with eight points and three rebounds .Franck Kepnang was huge defensively with a career-high four blocks.
What It Means: After falling to 6-6 with an eight-point loss to No. 1 Baylor on December 18, the Ducks have now won five in a row and have new life on the season after knocking off back-to-back top-five conference opponents. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Oregon is the third team ever to beat two AP top-five teams on the road in a five-day span, and the first since Clemson in the 1975-76 season.
"Our guys are just playing harder," Altman said. "I wish I could act like we invented something here, but we're just playing so much harder than what we were. I don't know if that's just guys coming together, but the leadership is definitely part of it. "I just think we're playing a lot better because we're playing harder.
Up Next: The Ducks host Washington State on Thursday, Jan. 20, at 6:30 p.m. PT in Matthew Knight Arena. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Network.