Consumed by the pain in his rear the last few days after a nasty fall, Nick Young decided the best way to get over it was to become one himself.
Playing with 17 stitches in his buttocks, the sophomore swingman seemed to materialize everywhere USC needed him on the offensive end Saturday evening. He weaved through the lane for driving layups and pulled up for smooth jumpers.
And just when Oregon State had clawed back from a late 10-point deficit to make the last scheduled game at the Sports Arena competitive, there was Young again. He rebounded a missed free throw, made a spin move and laid the ball in the basket with 1 minute 24 seconds left to send the Trojans on their way to an 89-84 victory.
"I felt playing aggressive, playing hard would make my game come easier," said Young, who finished with 33 points and 14 rebounds, both career highs.
The Trojans needed every one of Young's points to weather a sloppy defensive effort that allowed the Beavers to close to within three points on Jack McGillis' three-pointer with 34 seconds remaining. USC made 11 of 17 free throws in the final 1:39 to hold on, but nothing could spare the Trojans from a blistering address by Coach Tim Floyd afterward.
"We know that with two minutes to go we started celebrating too early on the court," junior guard Lodrick Stewart said. "When you have a lead like that, the clock is your friend, and we weren't taking advantage of that."
Things were more palatable on the offensive end for the Trojans, who swept their season series with the Beavers for the second time in three years. Stewart scored 22 points and junior center Abdoulaye N'diaye added 13 points and 10 rebounds, both career highs.
Forward Sasa Cuic scored 24 points for Oregon State, which played the last 9:52 without Nick DeWitz after the senior forward suffered a dislocated left shoulder.
USC improved to 17-10 overall and 8-8 in the Pacific 10 Conference, extending its lead over Oregon for sixth place in the conference standings to one game with two games to play. The Trojans play at Stanford on Thursday and could still conceivably pass the Cardinal for fifth place.
"Next week is going to be big for us," Stewart said. "We're going to try to get two wins on the road and see what happens from there going into the Pac-10 tournament."
Young, who made 11 of 19 shots from the field and 10 of 11 free throws, said he was determined not to go out a loser on a Senior Day that also marked the last game for the Trojans in the Sports Arena, barring an appearance in the National Invitation Tournament. Young said he realized he was on the brink of his career high when Stewart stepped to the free-throw line with 1:27 left and USC clinging to a five-point lead.
"I kept looking up at the [scoreboard] to see my points," said Young, who was injured Thursday afternoon when he stumbled into a glass case protecting a fire extinguisher in Heritage Hall, necessitating the stitches.
Stewart made the first shot but missed the second, allowing Young to snare the rebound and score another basket.
Officially, there wasn't much fanfare surrounding what could be the last college game in the 46-year-old Sports Arena, though the crowd of 5,350 was considerably larger than usual. Athletic Director Mike Garrett wore a tuxedo and public address announcer Petros Papadakis, accompanied by the Trojan band, belted out a few lines of "Auld Lang Syne" before the game.
Young then took it upon himself to generate the truly memorable moments.
"A lot of great people played here," Young said, "and I just wanted to be one of them great people."