In a night of statistical anomalies, including Jonah Matthews scoring a career-high 27 points and Jordan McLaughlin having a career-high 10 turnovers, USC dominated Oregon 74-54.
The Trojans held the ducks to a mere 26 points through the first 15 minutes of the game, and looked as dominant on defense as they had all season. Even with USC having a tendency to blow big leads, it never really felt like Oregon was going to make a real comeback. After a poor sequence of turnovers for the Trojans in the second half, the Ducks closed the gap to 14, but that was as close as it got.
USC now prepares to face Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship game and will hope to play better than when they lost by 14 to the Wildcats in Tuscon.
Jonah Matthews Has Arrived
The sophomore guard played great in USC's win over Oregon on Thursday, but had his cake and ate it too during his coming out party on Friday night. Matthews hit seven threes and passed his previous career-high of 26 points that also came in Las Vegas against Wyoming in a mid-season tournament. Matthews fueled USC's early runs and hit timely shots in the second half when Oregon was attempting to mount a comeback.
But more than his sharp shooting, which he has shown plenty of times before, Matthews played a complete ballgame on Friday night. He had three assists and made several smart passes out of the pick-and-roll, something he doesn't have a ton of experience with as he's traditionally just a spot-up shooter. He also played outstanding on the defensive end and had three steals to show for it.
Coming into the season, Matthews was looking like the sixth or seventh best player on the team, but now has improved enough to be in the conversation for third.
Lack of Ball Handlers
Jonah Matthews is not a point guard. Despite all the praise I just heaped upon him, his handle is not as tight as it needs to be and with both De'Anthony Melton and Derryck Thornton out for different reasons, USC's lack of ball handlers outside of McLaughlin was frighteningly evident.
The Trojans had 20 turnovers in the game, doubling their season average of 10, and many of those came when they were trying to break the Oregon press. Matthews and Chimezie Metu both struggled in that situation, and McLaughlin had an uncharacteristic amount of turnovers as well, quintupling his season average of 2.3.
While pressing is not something every team employs, it's clearly a strategy that is effective against USC while McLaughlin is the team's only strong dribbler.
Three seasons ago, USC fans were ecstatic when the Trojans upset Arizona State as a 12-seed in the first round of the conference tournament. On Thursday the Trojans earned a trip to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2011. And on Saturday they will have a chance to win the Pac-12 Tournament. Andy Enfield has completely rebuilt this program and deserves incredible amounts of credit for doing so.
While this season has felt like a failure to fans and observers, it would be hard to call it such if the Trojans can beat the Wildcats on Saturday night. This team isn't as good as fans want them to be. But they've come a remarkably long way since going 11-21 in Enfield's first season as head coach.