Blogger spotlight: Bearcatsblog previews Cincinnati-Xavier

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Today kicks off a weekly feature where we spotlight a college hoops blogger and hit ‘em with a serious of questions heading into one of the week’s big games.

This week, it’s Scott King, who runs Bearcatsblog.

His Cincinnati Bearcats play Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout tonight. We chatted about that, the best Cincinnati team he’s seen the team’s fast start this season. When you’re done, be sure to check out Bearcatsblog, where Scott’s done a bunch of great posts on the Shootout, including the worst games and the biggest villains. (Well, from his point of view. Sorry Xavier fans.)

Q: Critics point to Cincinnati’s unimposing non-conference schedule as the main reason for a 14-0 start and why it just joined the AP and coaches’ polls. Fair or unfair?

A: It’s absolutely fair. Cincinnati played one of the absolute worst non-conference schedules in the country. It was easiest the worst slate of games that I’ve seen them schedule. The only tests they took were against Dayton, who seems to be a little down, and Oklahoma, who was a replacement for Duke.  I said it a day or so ago, I don’t think this team should be ranked. Rankings should be on merit, and I don’t think this team has done enough. And I write a Cincinnati blog.

Q: Last season’s Cincinnati squad featured two high-profile players in Deonta Vaughn and Lance Stephenson, yet was largely unimpressive throughout the season. Yet Cincy’s off to its best start since 2004. What do you expect from here, both overall and in the Big East?

A: That’s the $64,000 question right now. Things really step up with the schedule now, with Xavier, and 3 of the next 4 games after that at Villanova, at Syracuse and at Notre Dame. If Cincinnati could get 3 wins out of that, I think it would be a huge boost to the team for the Big East slate. I think this team has the potential to be a top 6, top 7 team in the conference. I expect them to be around 9, 10 and in the bubble discussion.

Q: Biggest difference between this season and last?

A: I think there are a couple of huge differences. Yancy Gates has progressed nicely, and the combination of him and Ibrahima Thomas on the interior play very good defense, and they are great rebounders. Thomas especially on the offensive end. The guards, especially Dion Dixon, have really worked hard to improve their games. This team seems to have players that know what their roles are on the team, and they like playing with each other. Larry Davis, Sean Kilpatrick, and Darnell Wilks have all contributed quality minutes off the bench. Davis and Kilpatrick have both gone for 20 in games this year, Kilpatrick a couple of times.

I think last season there was a whole lot of deferring to Deonta Vaughn and to Lance Stephenson. They were good players, but everyone else took a back seat. This year, the guys seem to be all for one.

Q: Who’s your go-to guy? Do you need one?

A: I would say the go to guy is Dion Dixon. He wants the ball in his hands. He has really worked on his shot, despite his recent mini-slump, and when that’s not falling, he gets to the line. And to top it off, he’s second on the team in assists.

I think every team needs a go to guy. That guy doesn’t need to take all of the shots at the end, but he has to have a hand in them. You need someone to make a play when you team is in trouble and needs a score.

Q: Yancy Gates, Cashmere Wright, Dion Dixon, Sean Kilpatrick. When’s the last time Cincinnati’s had a core group of players this solid?

A: You have to go back a ways. I think it was the 2005 squad that had Jason Maxiell, Eric Hicks, James White, Nick Williams, Armien Kirkland. Coincidentally, that team was the last UC team to make the tournament. The team the next year was pretty solid, and nearly the same group minus Max and Kirkland, who got hurt in the Big East opener I believe.

Q: The defense reminds me of how it used to be played under a certain coach who always wore black. Is it there yet? Will it ever be?

A: It’s been there so far. All the defensive metrics have Cincinnati as a team who’s been very, very good. Most of that is due to playing bad teams, but Cincinnati has held both Big East foes to substandard shooting percentages, and controlled the tempo. I think that things could get back to the way they were definitely. Mick Cronin has a nice recruiting class coming in next year, and Wright, Gates, Kilpatrick and Dixon should all return. 

Q: It’s gotta be strange to see Huggins standing in front of the other bench when West Virginia comes to town, right? People still miss the guy?

A: The first time a few years ago was pretty surreal. It’s really weird watching the man who was the face of your program for years end up at a place where he’s also beloved, and that team is a conference foe. The first game was pretty good closure for me. Now, he’s West Virginia’s coach. I know that people still miss him, because people still say him getting fired is a reason they aren’t UC fans anymore. I mainly feel bad for them.

Q: Xavier’s on Thursday. I consider your rivalry to be the nastiest in the country, and in a good way. Is there a way to describe the Crosstown Shootout to someone who’s never seen one?

A:It’s very intense. There was always the big school/small school dynamic. There is the Jesuit school v. school that dudes punch police horses. There is the Pete Gillen’s coaching staff grabbing their crotches thing. All the players play each other in summer leagues and the like, and there is a rivalry there. Now mix in the fact that not only is Xavier beating big, bad Cincinnati, but they are beating them in the worst scenarios possible. Charles Williams dribbles the ball off his foot and Lenny Brown makes the winner? Check. Lloyd Price lay up? Check. Stupid jerk Kevin Frey hitting 3s and running down the court like a moron as Xavier beats top ranked UC again? Check. Kenny Satterfield missing a runner off the front of the rim? Check. Derek Brown getting a big dunk late? Check. Double overtime heart breaker? Check. Now mix in the fact that, while not all, many Xavier fans are gigantic a-holes and the hate level rises. It’s 1 town, 2 teams. While not quite up there with Louisville/Kentucky and Duke/Carolina, I think X/UC is definitely in the top 5 rivalries.

 Q: The Bearcats own a 47-30 advantage in this series, yet the Musketeers have won three straight vs. Cincinnati and 10 of the last 14. When will that swing back to Cincinnati’s favor?

A: Hopefully starting this year. The only time Cincinnati has beaten Xavier lately was Mick Cronin’s first season, which was his worst team. The talent level has risen back to near even between the schools, and I think we are in for years of highly competitive games with Cincinnati beating Xavier every year. I can hope.  

Q: Time to reminisce. Ever find yourself wondering what would’ve happened if Kenyon Martin hadn’t broken his leg in 2000? That was one of the best teams of the last dozen years, yet people seem to forget just how good they were.

A: That use to happen all the time when I watched the Nuggets or Nets. That team was absolutely loaded. They had DerMarr Johnson, who said he went pro because of the injury, Pete Mickeal, who was a second team All-American I think, Kenny Satterfield, Steve Logan, Jermaine Tate, who could rebound. That team had skill at every position. They hammered nearly everyone they played. The only losses were to Xavier, ugh, and to a good Temple team, who UC seemingly never beat. UC won their conference games by an average of like 17 a game. They destroyed St Louis by like 40 a few games before, and everyone expected a walkover in the first round of the tourney. Unfortunately, bad things happened. I still think UC walks to that title. No way anyone was stopping Kenyon.

Q: Best Cincinnati team you’ve seen.

A: It was the 1999-2000 team. But, I’m going to shout out to the 2001-02 Bearcats. That was the Steve Logan team. That was not a team that was supposed to be that good. Marquette was supposed to win the conference if I recall. UC lost the first game of the season, and then didn’t lose until February. Coincidentally, that was to Marquette. UC lost later that month, but crushed teams in March, including a dominating performance against Marquette in the C-USA final. They ended up being matched with an underachieving UCLA team in the second round, and blew a double digit second half lead. Logan was amazing that season. Lenny Stokes had a very good season as well. That team featured a freshman Maxiell off the bench.

Q: Favorite player?

A: Kenyon Martin

Q: Why?

A: Because Kenyon was the most bad ass basketball player in the world. He blocked shots, he scored, he rebounded, he intimidated, he dominated. He did everything. Youtube the highlights from the DePaul game, or as it’s called around Cincinnati, the Kenyon game. Martin lead a UC comeback down 10 with 3:45 to go by hitting back to back turn around jumpers, went to his left for another bucket, blocked a shot that led to UC free throws, blocked another shot, hit the tying bucket, went baseline on two defenders to re-tie the score, and took the ball up the floor to get the assist on the game winning basket. Like I said, bad ass.

Q: Bottom line: Is Cincinnati a football school or basketball school?

A: Basketball school. I think Cincinnati is a football town, mainly because the NFL has become religion in America. When I think Cincinnati Bearcats, I think basketball. Some of that could just be the time I was growing up. I grew up with the Huggins era. The Final Four run was right in my formative years as a basketball fan. I still remember Nick Van Exel hitting a half court shot against Xavier. Plus, Cincinnati has one of the 5 greatest basketball players of all time, and 2 national championships. They have none of that in football. That makes you a basketball school. 

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller.

Bubble Banter: It’s that time of year again!

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It’s getting to be that time of year.

Bubble Banter is back, baby!

Over the course of the next three days, we are going to be diving headlong into bubble chatter right here, breaking down every single team that is on or near the bubble for the NCAA tournament Field of 68. This, of course, is according to our Dave Ommen, who sent me a list of all the bubble teams. Our cut-off, at least for this conversation, is teams that currently sit as a No. 9 seed or better in the most recent bracket that we released.

Why?

Because — with the notable exception of Ohio State — it is difficult to see how any of those teams can end up out of the NCAA tournament before our next bracket projection gets published on Monday.

So, you know, they’re not currently on the bubble.

Anyway, come back throughout the weekend to see who the winners and the losers are and what it means for their standing in regards to the cut line.

FRIDAY

Wisconsin at PURDUE, 7:00 p.m.
YALE at Brown, 7:00 p.m.

SATURDAY

VCU at La Salle, 12:00 p.m.
PITT at SYRACUSE, 12:00 p.m.
ST. JOHN’S at DEPAUL, 2:00 p.m.
VIRGINIA TECH at Boston College, 2:00 p.m.
LSU at TEXAS, 2:00 p.m.
OKLAHOMA at MISSISSIPPI STATE, 2:00 p.m.
RHODE ISLAND at St. Bonaventure, 3:00 p.m.
UNCG at Samford, 3:00 p.m.
AKRON at Ohio, 3:30 p.m.
LIBERTY at Stetson, 4:00 p.m.
Chattanooga at EAST TENNESSEE STATE, 4:00 p.m.
N.C. STATE at Georgia Tech, 4:00 p.m.
SMU at MEMPHIS, 4:00 p.m.
TENNESSEE at No. 3 Kansas, 4:00 p.m.
BYU at San Francisco, 5:00 p.m.
No. 7 Dayton at RICHMOND, 6:00 p.m.
No. 15 Kentucky at No. 18 TEXAS TECH, 6:00 p.m.
Kansas State at ALABAMA, 6:00 p.m.
Washington State at UTAH, 7:00 p.m.
NOTRE DAME at No. 5 Florida State, 8:00 p.m.
SAINT MARY’S at LMU, 9:00 p.m.
WASHINGTON at No. 23 Colorado, 9:00 p.m.
No. 22 Arizona at ARIZONA STATE, 9:30 p.m.
Colorado State at UTAH STATE, 10:00 p.m.

SUNDAY

VIRGINIA at Wake Forest, 12:00 p.m.
No. 11 Michigan State at MINNESOTA, 3:00 p.m.
Fordham at SAINT LOUIS, 3:00 p.m.
XAVIER at Creighton, 4:00 p.m.
Loyola-Chicago at NORTHERN IOWA, 4:00 p.m.
OHIO STATE at Northwestern, 6:30 p.m.

Best Bets: Previewing Baylor-Florida, Texas Tech-Kentucky

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As always, the Vegas lines are not out for the weekend games, so we will be breaking them down using KenPom, Torvik and Haslametric projections.

FRIDAY

MARQUETTE at No. 13 BUTLER, 9:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Butler 72, Marquette 66
  • TORVIK: Butler 72, Marquette 66
  • HASLAM: Butler 71, Marquette 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: Butler 70, Marquette 64

In theory, this is an ideal buy-low spot for Butler. They are coming off of three straight losses, the last two of which came on the road. The loss at DePaul was a bad matchup, and the loss at Villanova was a result of Sean McDermott and Jordan Tucker shooting a combined 1-for-12 from three until the final minute of a 15-point loss.

Marquette, on the other hand, is in a prime sell-high spot. The Golden Eagles have won three in a row. Two of them came at home and the third was at Georgetown, a team that is down to just seven scholarship players. Trying to predict the nights that Markus Howard doesn’t score 30-plus is more or less impossible, but I do think that it is worth noting Butler is 12th nationally in defensive three-point field goal percentage and has a couple of quality perimeter defenders they can throw at him.

BEST BET: The logic says to bet Butler here. The problem is that, at Butler (-6) or (-6.5), I don’t think we’re buying Butler low or selling Marquette high. KenPom and Torvik both have the line at (-6) while Haslam has it at (-7). I was hoping to get it at (-5) or lower, which is unfortunate. Either way, if I’m going to be betting this game — which, let’s be honest, is probably going to happen — it will be with Butler.

Oh, and Butler is unveiling Butler IV, their new puppy, tonight. Never fade the puppy play.

SATURDAY

No. 15 KENTUCKY at No. 18 TEXAS TECH, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Texas Tech 67, Kentucky 64
  • TORVIK: Texas Tech 67, Kentucky 64
  • HASLAM: Texas Tech 69, Kentucky 63
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

The more I think about this, the more I like the Texas Tech side here. I do think that the Red Raiders have one of the best coaching staffs when it comes to developing and instituting a game-plan. That’s a problem for a Kentucky team that tends to be fairly limited in what they run offensively. Put another way, Kentucky tends to figure out what works for them and run it over and over and over again. Their playbook shrinks as the season progresses, and that’s the kind of thing that Chris Beard and Mark Adams can take advantage of.

This is also a good buy-low spot for Texas Tech, considering that they are coming home off of a loss at TCU.

On the other side of the ball, I do worry about Texas Tech’s ability to create offense. They have struggled on that end, and I don’t think they actually have the front court pieces to be able to pull Nick Richards out of the paint.

BEST BETS: I’ll be curious to see where the line opens up here. I lean Texas Tech at anything (-4) and below, and I hope that the Kentucky effect can push that line much lower. I also will be on the under. If I think Texas Tech will have trouble to score, and Kentucky will have trouble to score, it only makes sense.

No. 1 BAYLOR at FLORIDA, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Baylor 65, Florida 64
  • TORVIK: Baylor 65, Florida 63
  • HASLAM: Baylor 65, Florida 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Baylor feels like they’re due for a loss, right?

They needed to erase a 12-point second half deficit at Oklahoma State last weekend. On Monday night, they nearly had Austin Reaves hitting a three in the final seconds to give Oklahoma a win in Waco. And now they are heading back out on the road to take on a Florida team that has been better of late?

Here’s to hoping that this line gets inflated because of the number next to Baylor’s name.

I also believe that the under is in play here. Baylor is one of the nation’s best defensive teams. Florida has not been as good on that end of the floor of late, but they, too, have shown flashes of being able to guard. They also matchup well with the Bears. But more importantly, I don’t believe that either of these teams are going to try and push the tempo. Florida has shown a frustrating determination to play possession by possession this season, while the Bears rank 269th in average offensive possession length.

BEST BET: I’ll be targeting the Florida ML here, particularly if the Gators end up getting points, but taking the under seems like the best play in this game.

No. 8 VILLANOVA at PROVIDENCE, 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Villanova 70, Providence 68
  • TORVIK: Providence 70, Villanova 69
  • HASLAM: Villanova 68, Providence 66
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

It’s not going to feel comfortable, but this feels like a good spot to take Providence. Villanova has won five in a row and 11 of their last 12, but their last four games have been played at home. They’ve failed to cover in two of their last three games and are just 1-3 against the spread on the road this season.

Providence has lost back-to-back games on the road, covering the spread in both games, and have covered in six of their last eight games.

BEST BET: I’ll be on the Providence side, but whether I take the Providence ML or take the points will depend on what the line opens up at.

No. 21 ILLINOIS at MICHIGAN, 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan 71, Illinois 68
  • TORVIK: Michigan 71, Illinois 68
  • HASLAM: Michigan 71, Illinois 69
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

The logic here is going to be exceedingly simple: Illinois is as hot as any team in the country right now. They’ve won five straight games, including wins at Wisconsin and at Purdue, the latter of which was by 17 points. Michigan, on the other hand, has not been the same team since they lost Isaiah Livers to a groin injury and, since January 1st, they’ve ranked 127th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Torvik.

BEST BET: I’ll be all over the Illinois ML, especially if this line opens up at Illinois (+3).

TENNESSEE at No. 3 KANSAS, 4:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Kansas 68, Tennessee 54
  • TORVIK: Kansas 68, Tennessee 54
  • HASLAM: Kansas 70, Tennessee 50
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Kansas ranks No. 1 nationally in adusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They’re third in Torvik’s rating system. Since Lamonte Turner saw his season come to an end, Tennessee has ranked 251st nationally if adjusted offensive efficiency. The one point guard on their roster, freshman Santiago Vescovi, is averaging 5.0 turnovers per game despite playing just 24.5 minutes — to be fair, he had 21 turnovers in his first three games and has had just nine in the last three.

BEST BETS: I think Kansas rolls here after a week of hearing how bad they are because of Tuesday night’s fight.

SUNDAY

No. 17 MARYLAND at INDIANA, 1:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Maryland 67, Indiana 66
  • TORVIK: Indiana 67, Maryland 65
  • HASLAM: Maryland 66, Indiana 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Maryland is 1-4 on the road this season. Their one win came at Northwestern in a game where they trailed by 14 points in the first half. The Terps might be the worst road team in the Big Ten, a league where road teams have been terrible this season.

BEST BET: If Indiana is getting points, take the ML. I also will be interested in betting the Indiana first half line. Fade Turgeon is in full effect this weekend.

No. 11 MICHIGAN STATE at MINNESOTA, 3:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 71
  • TORVIK: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 71
  • HASLAM: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 70
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

This is a tough spot for me. Michigan State has not been great away from East Lansing this season and they are coming off of a road loss at Indiana on Thursday night. That said, their loss came after erasing a 16-point first half deficit in a game where Xavier Tillman missed a wide-open layup that would have forced overtime.

BEST BET: I will be staying away from this game.

Kentucky’s Kahlil Whitney is leaving school

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Kentucky will be down a five-star recruit for the rest of the season.

Kahlil Whitney, who was the No. 11 prospect in the Class of 2019, according to 247 Sports’ composite ranking, announced on Friday that he will be leaving the Kentucky program.

“My time at Kentucky has not gone as I had hoped,” Whitney wrote in a statement released on his twitter page, “and I therefore need to make a difficult decision quickly to put myself back in to the best position possible as I continue to develop and work towards my ultimate goal.

“I’ve realized since high school that the business of basketball waits for no one, and sometimes tough choices need to be made in order to progress.”

Whitney was a starter early on in the season for the Wildcats, but he has been relegated to a limited role off the bench since league play started. He’s averaged 3.3 points in less than 13 minutes. In the last seven games he’s averaging just 6.1 minutes.

Whitney’s statement does not mention transferring, but if he did opt to head to a different school, he will not be eligible to play until 2021-22 without a waiver.

Bracketology: The top seeds remain in place

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Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

It’s been a while since we could say this:  All four No. 1 seeds remained in place between bracket updates: Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas and San Diego State.

Elsewhere, more than a handful of teams still have significant resume questions.  And several current bubble teams have important showdowns this weekend – including key matchups in the Big 12 / SEC Challenge.

On a closing note … remember that the Selection Committee evaluates a team’s entire profile, from beginning to end.  How a team performed in its last ten games is no longer an official criteria (although each Committee member may have his or her own perspective on its importance).  So while Ohio State and Michigan, as examples, have both struggled of late, each team’s early wins remain relevant considerations with regard to team sheet evaluation.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: January 24, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Oklahoma vs. VCU
MIDWEST REGION Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
SOUTH REGION  PR VIEW AM vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION MONMOUTH vs. ROBERT MORRIS

SOUTH Houston                  WEST – Los Angeles 
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) PV-AM / NORFOLK ST 16) MONMOUTH / ROB MORRIS
8) USC 8) Wichita State
9) Michigan 9) Arkansas
St. Louis Sacramento
5) Butler 5) Arizona
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) AKRON
4) Maryland 4) Iowa
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Albany Greensboro
6) Wisconsin 6) Marquette
11) Virginia Tech 11) NC State
3) Villanova 3) West Virginia
14) COLGATE 14) LITTLE ROCK
Tampa Spokane
7) Rutgers 7) Indiana
10) Memphis 10) BYU
2) Florida State 2) Oregon
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Sacramento Omaha
1) SAN DIEGO STATE 1) Kansas
16) WINTHROP 16) MONTANA
8) STANFORD 8) HOUSTON
9) Florida 9) Ohio State
Tampa Cleveland
5) Penn State 5) Creighton
12) LIBERTY 12) YALE
4) Kentucky 4) DAYTON
13) VERMONT 13) NORTH TEXAS
Greensboro St. Louis
6) Auburn 6) Colorado
11) Oklahoma / VCU 11) Minnesota / Texas Tech
3) Duke 3) LOUISVILLE
14) WRIGHT STATE 14) LOYOLA-CHICAGO
Albany Cleveland
7) Illinois 7) LSU
10) Saint Mary’s 10) DePaul
2) SETON HALL 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) WILLIAM & MARY 15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Saint Mary’s Oklahoma Xavier Arizona State
DePaul Minnesota Richmond Alabama
Virginia Tech Texas Tech Georgetown Mississippi State
NC State VCU Rhode Island Tennessee

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, San Diego State
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (11)
Big East (6)
ACC (5)
SEC (5)

Big 12 (5)
Pac 12 (5)
American (3)

West Coast (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (1)

Duarte’s 30 points leads No. 12 Oregon past USC 79-70 in double OT

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EUGENE, Ore. — Paying close attention paid off for Oregon’s Chris Duarte.

The junior guard had 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals, and the No. 12 Ducks outlasted Southern California 79-70 in double overtime Thursday night.

“I was watching the point guard’s eyes. I was watching everybody’s eyes. So I knew where they were going to pass the ball,” Duarte said. “So I took that as an advantage.”

Oregon teammate Payton Pritchard added 24 points and seven assists, becoming the first Pac-12 player to reach 1,500 career points, 600 assists and 500 rebounds. When the achievement was noted on the video scoreboard at Matthew Knight Arena in the second half, the crowd gave the senior guard a standing ovation.

Pritchard is the sixth player in Pac-12 history with 1,500 points and 600 assists, joining Oregon State’s Gary Payton, Arizona’s Damon Stoudamire and Jason Gardner, USC’s Jordan McLaughlin and UCLA’s Tyus Edney.

Oregon (16-4, 5-2) led by 11 in the second half but USC rallied with a 17-2 run to take a 62-58 lead, capped by Jonah Mathews’ 3-pointer with 1:24 left.

C.J. Walker and Pritchard hit consecutive layups to tie it at 62 and send the game to overtime.

Pritchard’s 3-pointer in the first extra period gave the Ducks a 65-64 lead, but Ethan Anderson’s layup and free throw put the Trojans up by two. Duarte made free throws for the Ducks to tie it again, and Mathews and Pritchard both missed shots down the stretch.

Duarte and Pritchard each hit a pair of free throws that gave Oregon a four-point advantage to open the second overtime. Duarte’s 3-pointer put the Ducks up 74-68, and USC couldn’t catch up.

Duarte’s eight steals were one shy of the school record.

“He was the difference in the game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “No doubt about it.”

Onyeka Okongwu had 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Trojans (15-4, 4-2).

“You’ve got to take care of the ball. Some ill-timed passes that went to the other guys. We just have to make the right basketball play,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Give them credit, they’re a good defensive team.”

It was Oregon’s third overtime game in league play.

Oregon was coming off a 64-61 overtime win at Washington last weekend. The Ducks overcame a 16-point deficit and won it on Pritchard’s 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left. But Oregon lost to Washington State 72-61 last Thursday, resulting in a fall from No. 8 to No. 12 in the AP Top 25.

USC had won nine of its last 10 games and three straight, including last Saturday’s 82-78 overtime victory against Stanford. The Trojans came back from a 21-point deficit in the second half to beat the Cardinal.

The Ducks built an early 15-7 lead after Duarte’s fast-break layup and 3-pointer. Oregon stayed in front, but USC closed to 24-23 on Daniel Utomi’s jumper.

The teams went to the break with Oregon ahead 32-30. Utomi led all scorers with 10 points.

Okongwu’s layup for USC tied it at 32 to start the second half but the Ducks responded with a 10-0 run, capped by Duarte’s jumper off a dish from Pritchard. Okongwu’s dunk ended the Trojans’ scoring drought.

Okongwu made consecutive baskets to pull USC to 56-53, and Matthews tied it with a 3-pointer to top off an 11-0 Trojans run. Pritchard answered with a layup for Oregon.

Freshman forward Chandler Lawson’s layup stretched the Ducks’ lead to 49-38 midway through the second half.

“A lot of things we’ve got to work on. But we got some defensive stops when we needed it, we got some big rebounds when we needed it, and just found a way to win the game,” Altman said. “We’ve been doing that too much, though. We’ve got to find a way to get our offense cranked a little bit.”

Lawson made his first start for the Ducks after he had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Washington. Oregon was without center N’Faly Dante, who was questionable for the game after hurting his knee against the Huskies.

Pritchard was one of just two Division I players averaging at least 19 points, five assists and four rebounds per game, joining Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross.

BIG PICTURE

USC: The Trojans started 4-1 in conference play for the first time since 2016. USC went 5-0 to open conference play in 2002. … Enfield said afterward that this loss stung. “We’ve played a few close games this year. We won three or four close ones,” he said. “We were right there and we lost. It hurts when you lose a game and have a chance.”

Oregon: Pritchard is closing in on Oregon’s career record of 614 assists held by Kenya Wilkins. … Pritchard has won 96 games as a Ducks player, one shy of Oregon’s career leader, Johnathan Lloyd. … Sabrina Ionescu, star guard for the No. 4 Oregon women, was at the game and was interviewed by the Pac-12 broadcast team during the first half.

UP NEXT

USC visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Oregon hosts UCLA on Sunday.