Two days after its first loss of the season, No. 5 Southern California will make a somewhat quiet return home Thursday to put the pieces back together when it faces Oregon State in Pac-12 play in Los Angeles, Calif.
The Trojans were one of two remaining undefeated Division I teams in the country when they fell 75-69 at Stanford on Tuesday. Just hours later, the last remaining undefeated team went down when No. 1 Baylor lost to Texas Tech 65-62.
USC’s game at Stanford was originally supposed to be played Saturday, but was moved out three days because of COVID-19 concerns. With three conference games this week, it affords the Trojans (13-1, 3-1 Pac-12) the chance to quickly move away from their first disappointing result of the season.
Normally able to expose a size advantage against opponents, USC had just a 33-32 edge in rebounding, while they were outrebounded 7-4 on the offensive end.
Isaiah Mobley had 16 points for the Trojans and Boogie Ellis had 14, but USC shot just 42.9 percent from the field and was 6 of 21 (28.6 percent) from 3-point range. Still, the Trojans continue to believe they could be even better than their Elite Eight finish from a season ago.
“The culture we set here, we know that this method works,” USC’s Ethan Anderson told the Los Angeles Times. “… We know that the plays work. We know if we execute them, we’re going to win. When we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we’re going to be hard to beat. One through eight, I just don’t believe there’s too many teams in the country better than us.”
USC will have to find the energy for a rebound all on its own since only invited guests of players will be allowed in their home arena through Jan. 21, as the athletic program ramps up safety protocols due to the surge of COVID-19 cases. Six indoor athletic events at USC will be impacted, including two men’s basketball games.
Oregon State (3-11, 1-3) was also an Elite Eight performer from a season ago as a No. 12 seed, but it looks nothing like the squad that stormed deep into the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
The Beavers have been better of late, earning an 88-76 victory over Utah on Dec. 30. They followed that by returning from a COVID-19-related break to nearly knock off rival Oregon at home Monday, before ultimately falling 78-76.
Oregon State leading scorer Jarod Lucas was just 4 of 14 from the field Monday, and 0 of 8 from 3-point range, to finish with eight points. Warith Alatishe had 16 points with seven rebounds and Dashawn Davis had 14 points. Alatishe had 10 points in the final nine minutes.
“I’ve got to take that blame square on my shoulders,” Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle said. “But we drew a line in the sand a while back and we’ve responded. The guys have been better the last four games. But we can’t compete and be happy with a close loss.”
–Field Level Media