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USC 68, OREGON STATE 52

USC beats Oregon State

Walk-on senior Terence Green closes out the victory, but tough road awaits in the Pac-10 tournament.

March 08, 2009|Chris Foster

Every basketball team dreams of getting a chance to rush onto the court in celebration, doing a group hug and reveling in the moment.

That came Saturday for USC in a 68-52 victory over Oregon State in the regular-season finale, which set up a game against California in the Pacific 10 Conference tournament Thursday.

Whether the Trojans will be able to do another postgame jig hinges on a three-games-in-three-nights scenario, which appears to be their only path to the NCAA tournament.

But for one day, they were able to dance with glee. Terence Green, a walk-on senior, lofted a three-pointer that barely touched net at the buzzer, closing out the victory. Daniel Hackett, followed by a horde, raced onto the Galen Center court and did a clean-and-jerk with Green.

"It's just great to see a senior get a shot on senior night," Hackett said.

Now the Trojans will take their shot up the street at Staples Center.

Coach Tim Floyd stopped short of declaring that a conference tournament championship was the only way for the Trojans to make the NCAA tournament. But he did make it clear that, "I think that's the way we should approach it."

Pulling that off seemed a much more marketable idea after beating Oregon State. The Beavers (13-16 overall, 7-11 in conference play) were like that pesky little brother into the second half but were finally brushed aside when the Trojans (18-12, 9-9) went on a 21-4 run to take a 49-34 lead with seven minutes left.

That allowed USC players to turn their attention to the tournament.

"Two years ago Oregon ended up in fourth place and won the ring," Hackett said. "Last year we gave UCLA a good shot [in the semifinals]. . . . We're not afraid of anybody. We want to go out and make something happen. We lose a game and our season might be over."

USC and California split two games this season. A week ago, the Bears blew a 12-point lead in the last seven minutes, then won in overtime.

"I think we owe Cal a game for what happened in the Bay Area," said Hackett, who had 17 points, five rebounds and four assists Saturday. "Personally, I think they took a big game from us. That could have been the game that put us up there with Arizona" for an NCAA at-large bid. "I'm going to play with a chip on my shoulder, personally."

The Bears (22-9, 11-7) do offer the Trojans matchup problems.

Jerome Randle, a 5-foot-10 guard, had 15 points in the last game against USC. Patrick Christopher, a 6-5 freshman guard, had a career-high 29.

"Randle has always been a challenge for us because of his quickness and his range," Floyd said. "Christopher is a hard matchup for everybody in league. He can beat you off the dribble or shot."

The Trojans' depth, iffy through conference play, looked a shade better Saturday. Forward Leonard Washington had 10 points coming off the bench.

Floyd said playing three games in three nights is a challenge because "there is so much parity . . . and so many different styles that you have adjust for from night to night."

The Trojans handled Oregon State's version better Saturday than they did in Corvallis, where they blew a 15-point lead and lost in overtime.

DeMar DeRozan scored 16 points and Taj Gibson had 14 for USC, which shot 67.9% in the second half.

But it was defense that took the game in hand.

Gibson effectively took away the middle, finishing with five blocks. The Beavers shot only 39.2%.

"Taj was able to cure a lot of ills for us by changing shots," Floyd said.

That type of defensive effort will be important in the tournament.

"You're in a bigger arena with a bigger court," Hackett said.

"If we stay focused, don't turn the ball over and play our defense, we can be successful."

And do another dance?

"Why not, why not?" Hackett said. "We beat everyone in the conference except UCLA. We got a good chance."

--

chris.foster@latimes.com

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