LOS ANGELES - A Pacific-10 Conference Tournament championship banner would have made a nice addition to Galen Center.
The rafters at the new arena are rather barren, accentuated only by the two retired jerseys USC added in the past two months.
The Trojans have fought all season to prove they are a program on the rise, and they wanted something to show for all that hard work.
They wanted a banner. They wanted rings.
They wanted them a little too much.
USC came out flat and played its worst game of the season Saturday, losing 81-57 to No.16 Oregon in the Pac-10 Tournament final at Staples Center.
"We were too hyped," USC guard Nick Young said. "We were too serious before the game. It's not something we usually do. We are always joking around. But everybody took this game a little too seriously. That kind of got to us. It got in our heads."
The Trojans (23-11) are expected to make the NCAA Tournament, and will watch the selection show on TV today at Galen Center. But they won't go in with the momentum or seeding a victory and tournament title would have brought.
"If they watched today, we might be a 16," coach Tim Floyd said of the selection committee's task of seeding the Trojans.
USC, which beat Oregon in two regular-season meetings, got the jump on the Ducks again with a 7-2 start. But the game got ugly from there, with Oregon (26-7) going on a 19-2 run led by seven points from Aaron Brooks.
Young, USC's leading scorer at 17.6 points per game entering the contest, didn't make a basket until hitting a 3-pointer with 4:13 left in the first half and the Trojans already down by 15.
Dating back to Friday's game against Washington State, he went 40:56 without scoring a point.
"He's tough to guard," Oregon's Bryce Taylor said of Young. "But I just try to be physical, get in his head a little. I kind of know when he's going to get his shot. He starts running much harder."
If USC had any hopes of coming back after trailing by 13 points at halftime, they were squelched early by Taylor. He scored the first eight points of the second half as the Ducks opened up a 21-point lead.
Oregon's lead swelled to 37 after a 31-9 Ducks run concluded with back-to-back 3-pointers from Taylor.
Taylor finished with 32 points, making all 11 of his shots - including seven 3-pointers. On defense, he held Young to 10 points.
"That's part of his game," said Young, who knows Taylor from his high school days playing at Reseda Cleveland and Studio City Harvard-Westlake, respectively. "He's a streaky shooter. When's he's in a zone, he's on. Tonight was just one of those nights for him."
Gabe Pruitt, who was on fire Friday with a season-high 26 points, cooled off against Oregon. After hitting a 3-pointer to open the game, he made just one of his next 11 shots and finished with six points.
"We just didn't come to play," Pruitt said. "We came to play the first two times (against Oregon). Tonight, we didn't. It's tough. It came at the wrong time, in a championship game. But we can't sulk on this loss. We've still got some games left, hopefully more than one."
The Trojans accomplished what they set out to this week, strengthening their position for the NCAA Tournament by winning two games. But getting so close to a title - and their first Pac-10 banner - only to get blown out erased the positives.
"It would have been better if we lost to Washington State (in the semifinals) and saved ourselves this embarrassment," Young said. "It was just one of those days."
USC's previous 10 losses came by an average of seven points, with none by more than 15.
The good news heading into the NCAA Tournament is that the Trojans have lost consecutive games only once this season, and the second loss came in double-overtime at Washington State.
"We're going to treat it as an aberration," Floyd said of Saturday's game. "I got a lot of belief in these young men."