Stephen Dilbeck: There’s no Ducking pitiful performance
OH, that hurt. That was a sock to the nose, eyes left too blurry to be exactly sure what was happening. Yep, that was some Pacific-10 Conference tournament for our local teams, if your tastes run to mortification and disbelief. Hey, a great practice has suddenly become all the rage with USC and UCLA. Now both teams are licking their wounds, trying to enter the NCAA tournament reconfiguring their suddenly unsteady psyches. UCLA will still be given either a first or second seed today and likely remain out West, but how USC is seeded or where it ends up is a complete unknown. The Trojans are 23-11, finished in a three-way tie for third in the Pac-10 and made it to the conference tournament final. All very impressive. Floyd said he hoped the NCAA committee would seed USC the same as any other conference third-place team, though he admitted, “If they watched today, it might be 16.” Anyone watching must have thought Dick Enberg had lost his senses when he told viewers the Trojans had actually won their first two games against the Ducks. No, come on, tell us what really happened. There is no question the Ducks are suddenly the biggest thing to hit the Northwest since the Oregon Trail. After losing six of eight, the Ducks have won seven consecutive games, each victory more impressive than the last. “Sometimes you can sense when a team gets on a special ride,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. “We’re on one now.” The Ducks blew out Arizona, Cal and now USC to sweep to a tournament title that was supposed to be earmarked for regular-season champion UCLA. But these Ducks looked a lot like the Bruins who swept to the conference tournament title last year and kept rolling all the way to the NCAA title game, a team peaking at exactly the right moment. They played unexpectedly strong defense, had a terrific inside-out game, ran the floor, hit the boards and shot the ball like they were dropping it into Crater Lake. Bryce Taylor threatened to outscore the Trojans by himself. The Oregon forward was what you might consider hot, as in center of the Earth run by guys with tails and pitchforks. Taylor hit every shot he took. Every 3-pointer, every field goal, every free throw. He finished with 32 points. He was perfect as a dream. Venus de Milo with arms. “That was one of the most phenomenal performances I’ve seen in college basketball,” Kent said. USC had absolutely no answer, for him or anything else in Oregon green. “It was embarrassing,” USC guard Nick Young said. “They came out playing with more intensity, came out fired up. They just played better tonight.” [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The Trojans, who had played so well in winning their opening two tournament games, were left shell shocked. They weren’t angry, but numb. Not irate, but embarrassed. That sort of happens when you play in a conference title game on national television and find yourself trailing by, oh, a mere 39 points. The USC scrubs had to go on an 18-3 run at the end Saturday to make it only an 81-57 pummeling. You weren’t sure whether to offer the Trojans sympathy or condolences. “We’re going to treat it as an aberration,” USC coach Tim Floyd said. “I have a lot of belief in these young men. I think they’re going to come out and really have a great week of practice.” Like it wasn’t bad enough that No. 4 UCLA made for the quick exit against a middling Cal team, USC had to one-up the Bruins by being completely dismantled in the tournament final by Oregon, apparently the greatest seven-loss team in the history of college basketball. The final offered more carnage than “300.” It wasn’t a game, it was Mount Vesuvius vs. Pompeii, baby seal vs. club.