The Oregon men's basketball team (12-9, 4-5 Pac-10) was able to maintain momentum from its last win to down the Trojans (12-9, 4-5 Pac-10) in a 67-57 contest at Mac Court on Saturday.
The Ducks showed the match-up zone defense against SC and executed it just as well, if not better, than they did in the win against the Bruins. Oregon did have trouble finding an offensive rhythm at times and seemed to have some problems handling SC's man-to-man defense.
Despite the sporadic lack of offensive rhythm, the Ducks shot 50 percent from field-goal range and were 6-for-12 from beyond the arc. The Trojans took more shots than Oregon but were only 41 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3-point range.
Coach Ernie Kent praised the play of his team this weekend.
"I thought this team did a tremendous job of managing and handling themselves," he said. "This team has grown over time. The adversity is really toughening them up. They've done a very, very good job of letting us coach them."
Kent said that his coaching staff has been "incredible" and has done a good job of helping with adjustments, of putting in the extra time in practice and keeping guys focused.
"We feel like we've righted our ship in a way," he said. "The big test for us is to continue throughout the rest of the season."
On a night where players like Tajuan Porter, Michael Dunigan and Teondre Williams were quiet, players like Malcolm Armstead and Jeremy Jacob stepped up to the plate. Jacob led the team with 19 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. He was also 9-for-11 from the charity stripe.
Jacob, who has started playing alongside Dunigan as opposed to being his substitute, has really become a diverse player. Not only can he muscle it up inside but he can hit the baseline jumper and drive to the hoop. He says he's more comfortable playing inside when Dunigan is in because he "doesn't have to check the strongest and biggest guy on the floor." He also said that opposing teams focus more on Dunigan, relieving some of the pressure from him.
Fellow teammate Malcolm Armstead said that Jacob is "an inside presence" and gives the Ducks what they "need on the inside."
If Jacob is who the Ducks need on the inside then Armstead is definitely who they need at the point. He is clearly confident and capable of handling the ball and he's got some serious moves. At one point in the game he juked all five SC players out of their shorts on a drive to the hoop.
Armstead is also a great shooter. He had 18 points on the night, shooting 7-for-10 from field-goal range and 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. He also led the team with seven rebounds, had four assists and three steals.
"I was in a slump (earlier in the season), but obviously I'm coming out of the slump a little bit," Armstead said.
Even though the Ducks have now won two in a row, Armstead said the team isn't all the way back. "We've got a little more confidence but we still got a lot more to do."
Kent praised the play of Armstead after the win over SC.
"Malcolm can do anything he wants to do," he said. "That's one tough kid. Right now you're seeing Malcolm grow up in front of your eyes. He's a very good player and a smart kid. He's going to be such a leader down the road."
For the Ducks, Porter had nine points on the night and Matt Humphrey had six points, both of which were crucial three-pointers.
Now the Ducks face a full week of practice before heading on a three-game road trip over the course of the next two weeks against Oregon State, Arizona and Arizona State. Ironically, these are the same teams Oregon lost to after the two wins in Washington earlier in the season.
According to Kent, the team can continue to improve and play well if it keeps up its confidence and spirit.
"It has nothing to do with basketball anymore," he said. "If they can keep their spirits up they can shoot the ball. They may not be great but they'll be in a great place and in a good rhythm and that's the place to be."