LOS ANGELES (AP) –– It took the streaking Oregon Ducks a good while to put last-place Southern California away on Saturday. They finally did so because of their defense.
Mike Moser had 20 points and 12 rebounds, Joseph Young added 16 points, and the Ducks broke open a close game midway through the second half to beat the Trojans 78-63.
Jason Calliste scored 13 points and Elgin Cook had 12 for the Ducks (20-8, 8-8 Pac-12), who outscored the Trojans 17-3 in the final 9 minutes to reach the 20-victory plateau for the fourth straight season — just the second time in school history they’ve accomplished that feat.
“We came out in the second half, came together as a team, turned up the intensity on defense,” Young said. “This was a must-win, that’s what everybody was thinking. We started off kind of sluggish.”
Oregon has won five straight after losing eight of 10, and has beaten USC eight straight times.
“The little things we weren’t doing before, we’re doing them now,” Young said. “It’s a long season, we didn’t give up. We’ve got each other’s backs.
Pe’Shon Howard led USC (10-19, 1-15) with 20 points — all but four in the first half. Byron Wesley added 12 points for the Trojans, who lost their 10th straight game. They also lost 10 in a row to complete the 2011-12 season.
“We really guarded down the stretch,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “The guys didn’t handle the first half real well, gave up some easy baskets. We were all disappointed at halftime. We were playing for a lot and it wasn’t going well for us. (But) it’s a 40-minute game.”
It was close most of the way. Neither team led by more than three points from the time Moser made a basket with 12:27 left in the first half until two free throws by Young and another pair by Dominic Artis gave Oregon a 65-60 lead with 8:35 remaining.
Oregon would score nine more points in a row to make it 74-60 with 4:30 left. Omar Oraby’s two free throws with 4:12 to play ended a USC scoring drought of 5:09, but the Trojans had fallen too far behind to come back. The Ducks held the Trojans without a field goal following Wesley’s basket with 9:21 remaining that cut Oregon’s lead to 61-60.
“Oregon turned their intensity up,” first-year USC coach Andy Enfield said. “I thought they played great defense in the second half. Our lack of consistent shooting and our turnovers have hurt us. We’ve had trouble scoring at crucial times when the other team is scoring.”
The Trojans committed only four turnovers in the first half and 12 overall, but seven of them came in the last 10 minutes.
Howard, averaging 10.6 points beforehand, scored 11 in the first 7 minutes as the Trojans took a 19-12 lead. The Ducks scored the next 10 points — five by Moser — before a basket by Wesley ended a USC scoring drought of nearly 5 1/2 minutes.
The teams were tied 36-all at halftime. USC led Oregon by four points at halftime in Eugene four weeks ago before losing 78-66.
Howard made eight free throws without a miss in the first half, but didn’t go to the foul line after that.
“The first half, I came out aggressive,” he said. “Then in the second half, I was trying to facilitate.”
Enfield started USC’s five seniors — Howard, Oraby, J.T. Terrell, D.J. Haley and Daniel Munoz — in the team’s final home game.
The win enabled the Ducks to complete a sweep of UCLA and USC in Los Angeles for the second straight season. The Ducks have won five of their last six against the Bruins.
Moser had 20 rebounds Thursday night in Oregon’s 87-83 double overtime win over the Bruins — the most by an Oregon player since Greg Ballard had 20 in a five-overtime game at California 37 years ago.
The Ducks have made 44 3-point shots during their five-game winning streak.
The Trojans complete the regular season at Washington State and Washington next week and the Ducks finish against Arizona State and No. 4 Arizona at home.