CORVALLIS, Ore. — It rained here Saturday. That is not unusual. USC beat Oregon State. Get Ripley on the phone, right away.
Leave it to the Trojans to mess up a perfectly good Pacific 10 Conference title chase. They got out their cleaver in Gill Coliseum and cut the Beavers out of the race, 65-55, in one of the biggest upsets of the conference season.
How do you figure this Pac-10? The Trojans (9-17 overall, 4-13 in the Pac-10) hadn't won a game in almost a month, but they still socked the bad-news Beavers with about as overpowering a game as the Trojans are capable of producing.
USC, which led for the last 30 minutes of the game, ended a seven-game losing streak. Derrick Dowell scored 24 points and collected 14 rebounds.
Sure, it was a big win, Coach George Raveling agreed.
"But when you're struggling like we are, they're all big wins," he said.
The Beavers (18-7, 10-6) were not struggling at all, until just recently. A week ago, they were tied with UCLA for first place. Now, they've lost three straight, they've been eliminated from gaining the top seeding in the conference tournament and they look like they're in danger of a total collapse.
"It is certainly evident that we have, more or less, reached the bottom of our season," OSU Coach Ralph Miller said.
The bottom dropped out on the Beavers Saturday. Raveling's plan of action, to bump and bother 6-10 center Jose Ortiz with his own post men, Rod Keller and Chris Munk, worked so well that Ortiz didn't really hurt USC.
Ortiz finished with 21 points and 7 rebounds, but he had just five points in the second half, two fewer than Keller, who scored twice on inside moves and again on a three-point play when Oregon State tried to close the gap.
"They were concerned so much with Derrick that I was open a little bit," Keller said. "All I had to do was shoot."
Dowell, who assisted Keller on two of his three second-half baskets, said he doesn't mind giving the ball up as long as the proper result is a field goal.
"I could have shot," Dowell said. "But they would have been forced shots since I had two or three men on me. As long as there is an assist and we score, then there is no problem."
At this time, the Beavers have lots of problems. For one thing, they can't shoot straight. And the players don't seem to be getting along too well either.
Ortiz was openly critical of his teammates after Oregon State lost to UCLA Thursday night and claimed his teammates couldn't stand the pressure.
"They really don't know how to concentrate on the game," Ortiz said.
Some of the USC players thought Ortiz may have been right after seeing them play for themselves. Once again, Oregon State shot poorly (40%) and it was even worse in the second half when the Beavers made only 6 of 20 shots. Gary Payton kept Oregon State as close as it was with 8 of his 10 points in the second half.
USC forward Bob Erbst said he had a gnawing feeling that the Beavers were not ready to play. "It was like they were out late partying," he said.
Said Dowell: "They were flat. You could just see it on their faces. I'm not saying they were just going through the motions, but there was intensity lacking."
The Trojans never trailed after Dowell, who had 16 points in the first half, scored twice on drives to the basket for a 21-19 USC lead at the 10-minute mark.
In a stretch of just over six minutes, USC put on a 14-4 run to take a 31-21 lead capped by Brad Winslow's 3-pointer from the corner with 4:36 left.
The Trojan defense bothered Oregon State enough to force 17 turnovers, seven by Payton, and USC protected its lead when the Beavers got close late.
A three-pointer by Payton with 3:10 to go brought Oregon State to within 53-49, but Rich Grande scored on a drive, got fouled and made his free throw for a seven-point lead.
Grande made three more free throws in the last two minutes and Erbst sank four straight, the last two with 30 seconds left after the Beavers got to 61-55, only a pair of three-pointers away.
"I haven't been in many positions to put any games away," said Grande. "As a team, you just want to be a spoiler and I guess that's what we did."
USC has beaten Oregon State here the last three years . . . Derrick Dowell became USC's No. 3 career scorer, passing John Block. Dowell has 1,432 points. Block had 1,423. Dowell also moved ahead of Roy Irvin to become USC's No. 4 career rebounder. Dowell has 782 and Irvin had 768 . . . Oregon State lost starting forward Bill Sherwood in the first minute of the game. Sherwood sprained his left medial collateral ligament and will miss a week, although he could be ready for the Pacific 10 tournament that begins March 5.