LOS ANGELES (AP) - It’s not getting to them, not yet, the USC Trojans say.
But losing their 14th in the last 15 games, and doing so at home to Oregon State 76-66 Thursday is testing them - and their first-year coach Andy Enfield.
After all, this was an OSU team the Trojans (10-18, 1-14 Pac-12) felt they should have beaten four weeks ago in Corvallis after leading all the way only to lose 76-75 in overtime.
But the Trojans were shell-shocked in the first half, falling behind 13-3 after the first 3:22, missing 12 of their first 14 shots and trailing 43-20 at halftime.
“They’re the longest team in our league,” Enfield said as the Beavers (15-12, 7-8) blocked seven shots and had three steals in the first half to open a lead that would eventually reach 55-29 with 14:25 left.
“We told ourselves we’re not going to take another 20-point loss,” Roschon Prince said.
Prince joined J.T. Terrell in the final minutes to give the Trojans the ability to scramble and score. On a 35-14 run, USC closed within 69-64 with 1:44 left.
A big play to get USC back came on a flagrant 2 foul and an ejection of OSU’s Hallice Cooke with USC trailing 68-54 with 3:14 left. The Trojans converted four free throws on the foul and came within 10 on the following possession for the first time since trailing 13-3 in the first 3:22.
Oregon State coach Craig Robinson will take this one. “No road games are easy,” Robinson said. “It’s nice to have a comfortable lead because home teams will always have a run.”
Even nicer was how they got that lead. “Our defense in the first half was terrific,” Robinson said. “We were blocking shots, helping each other out. It was a real team effort. We were sharing the ball, we were having four, five, six passes. When you can do that on the road, you can do it anywhere.”
Until the end, USC struggled. And that surprised Enfield, who said his team was coming off its “best practice in a month, Wednesday. I was surprised how we came out.”
Even more surprising was how a team Enfield thought couldn’t press did so in making up ground at the end with Terrell scoring 21 points, 18 in the second half, and Prince, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds, coming off the bench to help force Oregon State into 12 second-half turnovers.
“At the end, we began to press and get some energy,” Enfield said. “Once we ramped up our intensity and energy, we played good basketball. I was disappointed with the first half. Prince gave us great energy. He did some nice things.”
But, and there’s always a “but” with this USC team.
“We ran out of time and energy tonight,” Enfield said. “But we haven’t quit all year. The first half tonight was rare. I’m proud of our team. They’ve played hard and practiced hard. I felt great after yesterday’s practice that we’d play well.”
And they did for the final 20 minutes. But it was too little, too late. Again.
“Coach didn’t say much at halftime,” Prince said. “It’s all on us. We came together and fought for each other. We took what Oregon State did in the first half and tried to bring it to ourselves.”
For the game, USC finished shooting 37.3 percent (23 of 67) from the field.
Oregon State shot 53.2 percent, making 25 of 47. The Beavers also did a good job spreading the ball around, as nine OSU players scored — eight in the first half.
Oregon State put four players in double figures, led by Roberto Nelson’s 14. Angus Brandt added 13, while Devon Collier had 12 and Langston Morris-Walker added 11.
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