November 17, 2015

Oregon's 18-game home win streak and 10-game run over Southern California figure to be severely tested Thursday night.

That's because the No. 21 Trojans are one of college basketball's biggest surprises as they look to defeat the Ducks for the first time in seven seasons.

Southern California (15-3, 4-1 Pac-12) finished last in the conference last season and is now in the hunt for first place as easily one of the nation's most improved teams. The Trojans are one of the conference's highest scoring teams at 84.6 points per game while shooting a league-best 41.1 percent on 3-pointers.

"They've got a very talented team," Oregon coach Dana Altman told the Ducks' official website. "We knew they were going to be good; we tried to get some of those players, felt like they had tremendous upside.

"They're moving along very quickly. They've gotten good real quick."

Oregon (14-4, 3-2) hasn't lost at home since falling 80-62 to then-No. 7 Arizona on Jan. 8, 2015. The Ducks have won every meeting with the Trojans since losing both in 2008-09.

USC has already surpassed its conference road win total from over the last two seasons by improving to 2-1 in such games with last Wednesday's 89-75 victory that ended UCLA's 12-game conference home win streak.

It also moved the Trojans into the Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 17, 2008.

Jordan McLaughlin scored 23 and Chimezie Metu - who was recruited by Oregon - came off the bench for 21 as USC built an 18-point halftime lead and held off a series of runs by the Bruins.

''Every single game we've done a better job closing down the lead when we're up,'' said guard Katin Reinhardt, one of four Trojans with at least 32 3-pointers. ''We didn't let up in the second half. Every time they made a run we countered it, locked in defensively and knocked shots down.''

The Trojans have no real superstar and instead feature a team-oriented approach with six players averaging between 10.6 and 13.5 points. It's a similar formula employed by another one of the nation's biggest surprises that also has the same initials as the Trojans - No. 24 South Carolina, which has five players averaging at least 10.8 points.

USC has used the "SC" from its name to dub its style of play "Slam City" as a play on words from coach Andy Enfield's "Dunk City" teams from Florida Gulf Coast. Metu has 28 dunks and Julian Jacobs 20.

"They're really athletic, like us," Ducks forward Dillon Brooks said. "It's going to be a fast-paced tempo, up and down."

Brooks is looking forward to his matchup with USC freshman Bennie Boatwright, a 6-foot-10 forward who leads the team with 35 3-pointers.

"He's a stretch four, so I've got to switch channels," Brooks said. "I'll try to get physical with him, because he's a freshman and we'll see how he reacts to that."

Oregon saw a three-game win streak end with Sunday's 91-87 defeat to Colorado. Brooks scored 21 points for the second straight game and freshman guard Tyler Dorsey added 19.

The Ducks, who yield 66.3 points per game to rank in the conference's top half, allowed their highest point total of the season.

''We scored enough points," Altman said. ''We just didn't guard anybody.''

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