Oregon tops USC to secure Pac-12 title
LOS ANGELES — Cheers and applause echoed out of Oregon's locker room and coach Dana Altman emerged in a soggy state, his white shirt and black pants stuck to him.
The party was on for the ninth-ranked Ducks after they beat Southern California 76-66 on Saturday to clinch the Pac-12 title outright, their first since 2002 and fifth in school history.
"We don't have many of these to hold onto. This is history," Altman said, noting stretches of 14 and 57 years between some of the previous titles. "Let's try not to make these droughts too long."
Tyler Dorsey scored 19 points and Elgin Cook added 17 for Oregon (25-6, 14-4). The Ducks overcame a 20-minute power outage in the first half at Galen Center and the Trojans' early run in the second half to close out the regular season with their fifth straight victory and 11th in 13 games.
"You can think about it, but when it really happens, it's amazing," said Dwayne Benjamin, who had 14 points. "We're happy with the championship, but we're not satisfied."
The Ducks donned T-shirts and black caps reading "Pac-12 Champs" and tossed ice water on Altman in the locker room.
"That's hard on an old man," he joked.
The Trojans (20-11, 9-9) lost to Oregon for the 12th straight time, the Ducks' longest-ever winning streak against USC. Katin Reinhardt and Nikola Jovanovic scored 12 points each, and Jordan McLaughlin added 10 for the Trojans, who went 2-6 in their last eight games.
The Trojans opened both halves strong, outscoring the Ducks 13-4 to start the second half and take a 50-48 lead, their first since early in the game. After going 9 of 10 from the free throw line in the first half, they struggled in the second, making just 9 of 18.
"It's good to know we can battle against a top-10 team," Reinhardt said. "It's a whole new season starting Wednesday for us and we're really excited about it."
USC tied the game for the last time at 52-all on Reinhardt's inside basket. The Trojans were limited to one field goal in the final 5 ½ minutes.
Casey Benson's 3-pointer gave the Ducks a 63-56 lead after Dillon Brooks made his first basket with 8 minutes to go. Brooks came in averaging a team-leading 17.2 points but got two fouls in the first half and went 1 of 6 from the field.
"They kept making tough shots," Reinhardt said. "In order to win, you got to knock those shots down."
Jordan Bell added 10 points for the Ducks, who extended their lead to 10 points on Benjamin's 3-pointer with 1½ minutes to go.
The lights inside Galen Center went out with 5½ minutes left in the first half and Oregon leading 31-22. The Ducks were in the midst of a 28-7 run that produced their largest lead, 37-22. Cook scored nine points and Dorsey added eight in the spurt.
"Maybe when you get down 12, just turn the lights out and you'll regroup," USC coach Andy Enfield joked.
Once the lights came back on, the Ducks scored six straight to finish their big run. The Trojans answered with a 15-7 spurt, getting 3-pointers from Reinhardt and Bennie Boatwright, to end the half trailing 44-37.
Shrugging off their history of slow starts, the Trojans opened the game by outscoring the Ducks 15-9. Cook and Dorsey combined to score 13 straight points in launching the Ducks' dominant offensive stretch that helped them shoot 59 percent in the half.
Oregon: The Ducks are the top seed for the league tourney in Las Vegas. ... They swept the L.A. schools, having beaten UCLA 76-68 on Thursday, when Dorsey scored 20 points. ... They improved to 16-0 when holding opponents under 70 points.
USC: F Strahinja Gavrilovic of Serbia made his fifth career start in 79 games on Senior Day. The Trojans' lone senior scored their first four points.
HITTING THE ROAD
The Ducks went 18-0 at home this season, and now they'll be confined to the road during the postseason. They were 5-5 away from home and 2-1 at neutral sites.
"It doesn't matter who we play right now, we're confident," Cook said.
Oregon: Pac-12 Tournament starting Wednesday in Las Vegas.
USC: Pac-12 Tournament starting Wednesday in Las Vegas.