“We let that one slip.”
Those were the words of Payton Pritchard, who had 18 points and seven assists in Oregon’s 75-70 loss to Southern California on Thursday night at Matt Knight Arena.
Oregon got beat badly on the boards. USC outrebounded Oregon 36-26, including nine more offensive rebounds. Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu were the two USC forwards who were all over the court, both of whom scored 18 points. Boatwright in particular was a threat all game, and had four 3-pointers.
“We got thumped on the boards,” head coach Dana Altman said after the game.
USC’s offense was efficient early on, and used a 14-0 run to get the lead 16-6.
It was a highly contested matchup for both teams. There were 15 lead changes, 14 of which came in the second half. Oregon is now 2-4 in Pac-12 play this season.
Oregon kept on the attack though, and gained some momentum midway through the first half. Elijah Brown and Mikyle McIntosh, who scored nine and 11 points, respectively, helped chip away at the lead.
Immediately after halftime, McIntosh made an and-1 layup. A few minutes later, Brown stole the ball after a timeout, then passed the ball to a cutting Pritchard for a tough layup. The crowd at Matthew Knight got to their feet after that play, as Oregon clearly had some momentum.
Both teams had patches of rough shooting. Oregon forced three turnovers within two minutes against USC, but then gave up a quick 7-0 led by Boatwright. Late in the second half, Oregon had zero field goals for nearly four minutes, but still held the lede 58-57.
Paul White had 14 points off the bench, and made a key layup to keep Oregon in the game, cutting USC’s lead to 71-70 with 29 seconds left.
“Offensively he did some good things, but he didn’t rebound,” Altman said.
Excessive fouls got the Ducks in trouble with significant time left in the second half. Oregon had 24 team fouls to USC’s 11, which allowed USC to get into the double bonus and and shoot 16-21 on free-throws.
Pritchard shot a 3 with 16 seconds left to force a tie at 71, but missed and then committed his fifth foul and was forced to leave the game. He had missed his last three shots leading up to that fateful three.
The past two games, Oregon has been ahead with four minutes left, but unable to put the game away over opponents.
“We’re just doing the little things wrong,” Pritchard said. “They just got us in the end.”
Altman said the focus now should just be on their next matchup against UCLA. The Ducks will face the Bruins at home on Saturday at 7:15 p.m.
Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august