LOS ANGELES (AP)—Ninth-ranked Oregon set out on a four-game trip 10 days ago as one of the best road teams in the nation.
After three losses, the Ducks can’t wait to get back to Eugene.
Taj Gibson scored 18 points and Southern California held off a late rally for a 71-68 victory Saturday to give the Trojans a season sweep of Oregon for the first time in six years.
Coming off a 69-57 defeat to No. 5 UCLA on Thursday, Oregon lost two in a row for the first time this season and has dropped three of its last four.
“We need to get our butts moving, get our energy and spirits back,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said.
The Ducks were 5-0 on the road at the start of the trip.
Gibson went 7-for-9 from the field and hit a free throw with 16.9 seconds to play to give USC its final margin of victory.
“To their credit, they hung in there and made the plays down the stretch,” Kent said.
Aaron Brooks led Oregon (19-4, 7-4) with 16 points and nine rebounds, but the Pac-10’s leading scorer missed a chance to tie the game when his 3-pointer was off the mark at the buzzer.
Nick Young scored 13 and Gabriel Pruitt had 12 points for USC (18-6, 8-3 Pac-10), which beat a ranked team for the fifth time this season.
“We’ve been in so many close games. They understand close games and know how to win,” USC coach Tim Floyd said. “We’re showing great poise when we need poise, and we’re showing attack when we need to attack.”
Last month, the Trojans beat Oregon 84-82 to hand the Ducks their first loss of the season and only defeat at home.
The victory gives a big boost to the Trojans’ NCAA tournament chances and could put them back in the Top 25. The Trojans were ranked No. 25 two weeks ago, but promptly fell out of the rankings after losing to Stanford by 15 points.
After opening the season with most of its games at the new Galen Center arena, USC plays five of its last seven away from home, starting with a game at No. 5 UCLA on Wednesday for first-place in the Pac-10, followed by a trip to No. 20 Arizona on Feb. 15.
“I’m not sure if there’s a tougher three-game stretch in the country— playing Oregon, UCLA and Arizona like we do,” Floyd said.
Tajuan Porter scored 15 and Malik Hairston added 14 for Oregon, which outrebounded USC, 41-20, but was outshot 60 percent to 33.3 percent.
The Trojans led for all but 2 minutes of the first half and were up by 11 at the break, but Oregon opened the second half with a 28-15 run to take the lead.
Chamberlain Oguchi made a 3 with 11:01 to play to tie it at 54, and Hairston made two free throws to give the Ducks a 56-54 lead, their first since the game’s second minute.
A layup and a dunk from Gibson quickly put USC back in front, 60-58, with 8 minutes to go.
Gibson blocked a shot and Daniel Hackett followed with a layup to put the Trojans up 65-60 with 3:46 to go and bring the crowd to its feet.
Gibson, a freshman, leads the Pac-10 in field-goal percentage at 60.6 percent and may be the most popular player at the Galen Center. Signs in the stands called the arena the “Taj Mahal.”
“Taj is a great player at the block and he creates for us on the outside,” Pruitt said. “We look to get him the ball first.”
Bruce Taylor’s layup pulled Oregon to 68-66, but Oguchi missed a short jumper with 1:05 remaining. Pruitt pulled down the rebound and Young made two free throws to give USC a 70-66 lead.
Brooks made two free throws to bring Oregon back within two, but the Ducks didn’t score again.
Pruitt had 10 points and three assists in the first half to help the Trojans take a 39-28 first-half lead.
“We’ve got to get more juice out of this team in the first 5 to 10 minutes,” Kent said. “Starting the game out with terrible defense, that sets us in a panic mode.”
The Ducks have four days off before playing four of their last six games at home.
“It’s where you are at in March that matters,” Kent told his team after the game. “You still have work to do.”