It was just another Sunday night Pac-12 game for the USC Trojans.
Just with a little more at stake than usual.
USC defeated the Oregon Ducks 82-68 in Sunday's Sweet 16 showdown at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Isaiah White, Tahj Eaddy and Evan Mobley led the way for the No. 6 seed in the West Region of the 2021 NCAA men's tournament and helped the Trojans advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2001.
Impressive showings from Chris Duarte and Eugene Omoruyi were not enough for the seventh-seeded Ducks, who have not made it past the Sweet 16 since 2017.
Notable Player Stats
- Isaiah White, G, USC: 22 PTS, 5 REB, 3 STL, 4-of-5 3PT
- Tahj Eaddy, G, USC: 20 PTS, 3 AST, 3-of-6 3PT
- Evan Mobley, F, USC: 10 PTS, 8 REB, 6 AST, 2 BLK
- Eugene Omoruyi, F, ORE: 28 PTS, 10 REB, 2 STL
- Chris Duarte, G, ORE: 21 PTS, 6 AST, 5 REB, 3 STL
Supporting Cast Leads Way for Trojans
Many circled Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State as the candidates to make a Carmelo Anthony and Syracuse-like run to the Final Four with one highly regarded NBA prospect leading the way through the Big Dance.
Perhaps Mobley and USC should have gotten more attention.
Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected the big man as the No. 2 overall pick in a February mock draft, and it was easy to see why as the Trojans dominated the first half and built a commanding 15-point lead.
He controlled the boards and scored in the lane, but it was his ability to facilitate that stood out whenever the Ducks would run multiple defenders his way. Both White and Eaddy benefited with open looks on the outside, and the starting backcourt combined for 24 points by intermission.
It was more of the same in the second half with the three-pointers from White, Drew Peterson and Max Agbonkpolo helping USC answer any time Oregon built momentum.
While Mobley was not scoring like he's capable of, all the attention he drew and his passing made the Trojans impossible to stop for extended stretches. His brother, Isaiah, also played well off him on the blocks and gave the Trojans another inside presence.
The contributions across the board gave USC enough breathing room to survive a scoring drought of more than five minutes late in the game. Its 21-point lead shrunk to single digits during the stretch, but Eaddy drilled a monster three to stop Oregon's run and Mobley helped ice the win with a head-turning slam.
Duarte and Omoruyi Without Enough Help in Loss
Maybe this just isn't a great matchup for Oregon.
The Ducks lost the only regular-season meeting between these two Pac-12 schools by 14 points and struggled to get anything going offensively until it was too late. They at least improved on that effort with 26 points in the first half compared to 22 in the previous showing, but that put them in comeback mode from the start.
Duarte and Omoruyi did what they could to keep Oregon within striking distance by attacking the lane and looking to create for others, but the lack of secondary scoring proved problematic in the early going.
The Ducks largely struggled with the length and athleticism of USC's zone, especially with Mobley patrolling the middle and protecting the rim.
Head coach Dana Altman made an adjustment by getting Duarte in the middle by the free-throw line to give him the opportunity to be a decision-maker and either attack or draw defenders in and kick out.
Yet, as was the case throughout the contest, nobody else was able to consistently take advantage of those looks outside of Omoruyi. He and Duarte continued to get to the basket and hit from the outside, but no other Oregon player scored more than eight points.
That's not going to cut it against a USC team that is dialed in with a formidable supporting cast playing well around a superstar.
The Trojans will face the top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Elite Eight on Tuesday.