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USC basketball needs to play angry to beat Oregon in the Sweet 16 and more keys to victory

Mar 26, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT
USC basketball star Isaiah Mobley.
USC basketball star Isaiah Mobley. / Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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USC basketball must put their length to good use, keep Oregon from feeling comfortable beyond the arc, and use all the motivation they have to beat the Ducks.

USC basketball's best shot at making the Elite Eight in 20 years has arrived.

The Trojans will battle Oregon on Sunday night for that coveted spot and bragging rights that go beyond the basketball court.

What will it take to beat the Ducks?

USC basketball's keys to beating Oregon

1. Defend the perimeter

The Ducks play small ball, relying on their sharpshooting to make up for what they lack in sheer size. They ranked first in the Pac-12 in three-pointers in the regular season and 16th nationally in three-point percentage. It's a skill that served the well in their upset over Iowa. Hitting 11-of-25 triples went a long way.

Oregon is going to hit some shots. It's what they do. USC must make it as difficult for them as possible.

Fortunately, defense has been the Trojans' strongsuit this season. They held Kansas to 24. percent and Drake to 30.4 percent. More of that please.

2. Let the length do the work

Oregon's tallest starter these days is 6-foot-6. Four of USC's five starters are taller than that. Height must reign.

USC outrebounded Drake and Kansas easily in the first two rounds. In their February meeting with Oregon, they swiped 35 rebounds to the Ducks' 25. The trend needs to continue. The worst thing the Trojans could do is get complacent and let Oregon trim that gap down.

On defense, the advantage of having athletic bigs like Evan Mobley and Isaiah Mobley is not being overwhelmed by a smaller team's quickness. Iowa couldn't cope, but the Trojans are set up for this.

3. Be bitter and play angry

One of the most exciting elements of watching USC unravel Kansas was seeing how much it meant to the Trojans. It's not every day you get to beat a powerhouse program by more than 30 points. USC made a statement in the second round. They need to make another one.

Just like with Kansas, the Trojans are favored in this matchup, but there's context here that throws favorites and underdogs out the window.

This week, Isaiah Mobley made waves when he claimed Oregon "stole the Pac-12 championship" from USC. Whether or not you agree with his reasoning, that's bulletin board material he just dropped in the Ducks' lap.

The entire Trojan team needs to play like Oregon indeed wronged them. They can't approach this opponent as a conference foe who they soundly beat earlier this season. They need to take a page out of the Water Boy: "Visualize all those people who have been mean to you and attack. Visualize and attack."

A spot in the Elite Eight is on the line. A bitter rival is standing in your way. Play like it.

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