USC basketball fell to the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis on Thursday night, 79-74, despite a career night from Bennie Boatwright.
It didn’t take long for the scoring to get started in Corvallis, despite the Beavers missing leading scorer Tres Tinkle due to injury. Both USC and Oregon State made their first attempts, with Bennie Boatwright getting on the board quickly.
With the two teams trading scores early, the long awaited return of freshman phenom Kevin Porter Jr. became the story. He checked in along with fellow freshman Elijah Weaver, who has also missed time with injury recently, and sank a three-pointer as USC broke off an 10-0 run to lead 20-11.
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USC’s lead extended as large as 11 points but the scoring contributions of Oregon State’s Stephen Thompson Jr. closed the gap. With the Trojans on a five-minute scoring drought, the Beavers took advantage with a 18-0 run to build their own lead at 32-25.
Boatwright jolted USC out of their stupor with a layup, but the Trojans still went into the break trailing 36-31.
Thompson Jr. opened the second half with a three-pointer to continue his hot streak, reaching the 20-point mark.
The Trojans struggled to pull closer to the Beavers, who seemed to answer every USC surge, most often spurred on by Boatwright.
With just over five minutes to play, Boatwright hit a three to put the Trojans within three points. Unlike the six previous times when USC had cut the Oregon State to four or less in the half, this time Shaqquan Aaron was the next player to score, making it a one-point game at 62-61 with a coast-to-coast drive.
Though Thompson Jr. did respond again, the boost from Aaron’s layup was enough of an opening for Boatwright, he launched a deep three to tie the game at 64.
On an uncharacteristically quiet night from Nick Rakocevic, he broke out of his stupor at the right moment, laying in an acrobatic shot and giving USC a 66-64 lead with two minutes to play.
With the game on the line, it was Thompson Jr.’s brother, Ethan, who delivered the heroics. He put back a missed shot to tie the game 66 all with 18 seconds remaining.
Boatwright had the final shot of regulation, but his three-point attempt hit the front of the rim, sending the game into overtime.
Scoring was once again left to Boatwright, but his six points in overtime weren’t enough as Ethan Thompson knocked down a corner three to break the back-and-forth.
The Trojans got a glimmer of hope when Thompson Jr. missed the second of two free throws which kept it at a two-point deficit, but Porter Jr. attempted to drive into the heart of the Beaver defense and had his shot blocked by Kylor Kelley.
Oregon State hit their free throws down the stretch to come away with the 79-74 victory.
USC came into the game as a slight underdog, but it will still feel like a huge missed opportunity for the Trojans. Oregon State was without their top scorer in Tinkle while USC got a career-best 37 points out of Boatwright. Moreover, the Trojans welcomed back Porter Jr. and Weaver on a night when they might have been able to stake their claim to serious contention in the Pac-12.
Instead, USC failed to support Boatwright, who single-handedly kept the Trojans in the game until late, while letting Thompson Jr. run rampant with 34 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Rackocevic, coming off Pac-12 Player of the Week honors, had one of his worst performances of the season with six points on 2-of-11 shooting. Oregon State’s 7-footer Kelley had seven blocks and kept USC’s big-man bottled up for most of the game.
Derryck Thornton also regressed from his recent form. He had just one assist and two turnovers while missing five of six three-point attempts.
Nor was Porter Jr.’s return quite as impactful as USC would have hoped. He scored his five points almost immediately off the bench and missed his next five shots while committing four fouls. It was a performance to remind the Trojans of his freshman standing, despite his clear talent.
USC is now 2-1 in Pac-12 play, missing the 3-0 mark they haven’t achieved since 2007.
Next on tap: USC will stay in the Pacific Northwest until Sunday, January 13 when they visit the Oregon Ducks for a game tipping off at 5:00 p.m. on ESPNU.