The Oregon Ducks notched their third Pac-12 win of the season Saturday against the USC Trojans, and for once it was the defense taking center stage at Matthew Knight Arena.
Mike Moser rebounded from his abysmal UCLA game with 13 points against USC.
Oregon guard Joseph Young forced six steals to go along with 21 points, and the Ducks as a team stole the ball 16 times against the Trojans – one shy of the school record.
Further driving the defensive point home: USC turned the ball over 12 times in the second half. They made 11 field goals over the same period.
"I thought the energy in the second half was much better," head coach Dana Altman said. "Got on the floor, got some loose balls. On a night we didn't shoot the ball really well, I thought our defense and our press were the difference in the game."
The tone was set early on as USC turned the ball over seven times in the first seven minutes, but the Ducks weren't shooting the ball well enough to pull away. Oregon shot only 38 percent from the floor in the first half, and trailed 38-34 at the break.
"Just disappointed in our energy," Altman said of the first half. "Just stuck in the mud. Energy level wasn't good. I just thought guys were trying, but we couldn't get any rhythm going."
Once play resumed in the second half, Oregon started playing faster on both sides of the court, deploying a full-court press every chance they had.
"I thought the press really got us going, and they didn't handle it well," Altman said.
The Ducks didn't shoot much better from the floor after halftime, and shot only 24 percent from beyond the arc in the game. However, seemingly unlimited transition opportunities led to 21 free throw attempts over the final 20 minutes for the suddenly energized Oregon squad.
Loyd didn't start Saturay, but played more minutes than Dominic Artis.
"Right now at this particular time, that's what we've got to have," Altman said. "We're going to make some mistakes yet, but we've got to play off the ball."
Thanks to its increased defensive effort, Oregon opened the second half on a 19-6 run to take a nine point lead, and used a later 12-4 stretch to put the game out of reach at 68-52 with under six minutes to go.
Senior guard Jason Calliste said after the game that he felt the team had turned a corner with their play against the Trojans, and that the Ducks played defense as a unit for the first time Saturday.
"It's always important to get a win, but just the way that we played, it's that much more satisfying," Calliste said.
Looking ahead, the Ducks get a rare Sunday off before beginning preparations for Thursday's clash with the #1 Arizona Wildcats.
Though the game has certainly lost some of its preseason luster with Oregon 3-6 in conference play, the Ducks don't feel as though they're wandering aimlessly towards the desert.
"We'll be alright," Calliste said. "Just play like we played today, and we'll be fine. Don't worry about it."
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