Mayo provides a late show for Trojans

USC freshman O.J. Mayo caught fire in the second half, scoring 18 of his 32 points in the final 8:32 and helping the Trojans rally past Oregon, xx-xx.
USC freshman O.J. Mayo caught fire in the second half, scoring 18 of his 32 points in the final 8:32 and helping the Trojans rally past Oregon, xx-xx.

USC's roster doesn't look so thin when O.J. Mayo catches fire.

Reduced to basically a six-man rotation, the Trojans fought back from a 14-point deficit to stun Oregon, 81-75, before 8,721 at the Galen Center Thursday night.

The win kept the Trojans (16-9), who broke a two-game losing streak, securely in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament spot and put a severe dent in the Ducks' hopes.

Mayo's 3-pointer with 6:13 left broke a 61-61 tie, then his 25-foot 3 from straight away with 2:05 left and the shot clock winding down helped seal the improbable win for the Trojans.

USC stayed in fourth place with a 7-6 record, but is now in that spot alone.

Mayo scored 21 of his 32 points in the second half and made six free throws without a miss in the final 32.3 seconds. In the final 8:32, Mayo scored 18 points, starting with a jumper that tied the game at 59.

It was a measure of redemption for the star freshman guard, who scored only four points - the only time he had not been in double figures this season - and turned the ball over 10 times on Sunday in a loss to UCLA.

Mayo said he was not trying to atone for that performance and was one of a number of players singled out by Coach Tim Floyd after the Trojans allowed 42 points in the first half.

"At halftime, he really pointed me out, he pointed other guys out that we weren't guarding anyone," Mayo said. "Throughout the first half, he was saying, `It's going to be a shame that we don't get in the (NCAA) Tournament because we don't guard anyone.'

"And that's what we really pride ourselves on, so we wanted to come out and respond to Coach."

The Trojans still trailed by 13 points in the second half when they began to chip away, starting with a 3-pointer by Angelo Johnson, who scored 14 points and had five assists with no turnovers.

Johnson hit another 3-pointer during a 15-4 run that was highlighted by reserve forward Keith Wilkinson, who revved up the crowd with an offensive rebound - a rare sight around USC - that led to a 3-pointer by Mayo.

The Trojans took their first lead at 57-56 when Johnson cut free under the basket and Mayo found him. Mayo's tiebreaking 3-pointer came behind a screen by Wilkinson.

In perhaps one of the school's most inspirational non-scoring outings, Wilkinson finished with 11 rebounds and fittingly made a steal that ended the game. The only thing he lamented was missing the two 3-pointers he attempted.

"I just felt like we needed a spark off the bench," Wilkinson said. "A couple balls bounced my way and I got a couple rebounds and it was just great to help the team win.

"Luckily, tonight balls were coming right to me. It was fun and I wanted to give the team a lift and I think I did that.

"After that first one, the crowd really responded and got the team pumped a little bit, and (Mayo) hit a 3 right after that and another one happened again. I think that really helped and it was a big turning point for us."

Forward Taj Gibson fought off foul trouble and added 15 points and eight rebounds for USC. Guard Dwight Lewis added 12 points with two 3-pointers in the second half.

Malik Hairston led Oregon (15-11, 6-8) with 17 points and guard Tajuan Porter added 16 with four 3-pointers. Forward Joevan Catron had 14 points and Maarty Leunen added 10 points and eight rebounds.

Bryce Taylor, locked in a heated duel with Mayo all night, scored eight points.

When the teams met in Eugene on Jan. 26, USC coughed up a big lead in regulation before winning, 95-86, in overtime.

But this time, the Trojans had to take on the Ducks (16-10, 7-7) without guard Daniel Hackett, who had 26 points, six rebounds and six assists in the previous meeting. Hackett is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his back.

Though USC is one of the Pac-10's better defensive teams, it took barely 10<MD+,%30,%55,%70>1/<MD-,%0,%55,%70>2 minutes for the Ducks to build a 28-14 lead and they led, 42-33, at halftime.

Oregon made half its shots in the first half but was 12-for-26 (46.2 percent) in the second half. USC outrebounded its opponent for only the second time in the last 14 games.

"That was the best second half we've played this year on both ends," Floyd said. We certainly needed it."

phil.collin@dailybreeze.com

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