Oregon began the week simply needing wins to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
It ended with the Ducks recording the most historic road trip in conference history.
Led by a career-night from senior point guard Will Richardson, the Ducks defeated No. 5 Southern California 79-69 in a Pac-12 men’s basketball game at Galen Center Saturday night.
The victory, coupled with Thursday’s overtime win against No. 3 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, gave Oregon the first road sweep of teams ranked in the Associated Press top five since the conference expanded to eight teams in 1964-65.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was also was the first since Clemson in 1975-76 that a team beat two AP top-five teams on the road in a span of five days.
The win against UCLA was the first over a top-five Pac-12 opponent for the Ducks on the road since they beat the fifth-ranked Bruins in 1976, ending a stretch of 13 straight losses in such games.
“I’m so proud of these guys and so proud of the way we’re competing right now,” guard De’Vion Harmon said. “We just gotta keep it going.”
The Ducks’ week began with a win at Oregon State Monday night and was capped with their win against the Trojans in a game Oregon never trailed as it won for the fifth straight time and sixth time in seven games to improve to 11-6 overall and 4-2 in conference play.
“Well, we needed a big week,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “You know that, our guys knew that. I’ve been talking about a sense of urgency since before the Baylor game. We still don’t have any room for error. It’s January 15 and you’re already talking about you don’t have any room for error. You’ve got to bring it every night.”
Richardson certainly did his part against USC (14-2, 4-2), getting a career-high 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting with five 3-pointers. He also had four rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Harmon had 16 points, three rebounds and three steals, and center N’Faly Dante had 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Ducks built a double-digit lead early in the game and never let the Trojans get closer than five points in the final 36 minutes.
Oregon went up 30-17 with 8:32 to play in the first half on a layup by Richardson for its largest lead of the game at that point.
The Trojans cut their deficit to five points as a 10-2 run made it 32-27 by the final TV timeout of the half at the 3:32 mark.
Then Richardson ignited a 13-2 finish for the Ducks, getting eight points on a pair of 3-pointers and two free throws. Eric Williams Jr. also had a steal and dunk during that run, and drained a long 3 at the buzzer to send Oregon into the locker room up 45-29.
The lead would grow to 18 points on a couple of occasions in the second half as the Ducks led by double digits for almost all of the final 20 minutes.
“It’s what Altman says every day, ‘Swing away, swing away, swing away,’” Harmon said. “That was kind of the motto he had for us coming in when got here Wednesday night.”
Isaiah Mobley and Boogie Ellis scored 18 each for the Trojans, who were 13-0 when the AP poll came out last Monday but went 1-2 this past week with a loss to Stanford and a win against Oregon State.
The Ducks now have four straight home games and a chance to get back into contention for a Pac-12 title. They play Washington State on Thursday, Washington on Sunday, tnen host their rescheduled game from two COVID-19 postponements against Colorado on Jan. 25 and end the month with the Beavers at Matthew Knight Arena on Jan. 29.
But for one night, anyways, Altman was going to enjoy an accomplishment that hasn't happened for anyone else in his four decades-plus of coaching.
“It’s 42 years and you’re right, I haven’t seen anything like it," he said. "And we needed it. Man, we needed something to jump start us and (we got) three road wins this week.”
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Oregon vs. Washington State
6:30 p.m. Thursday at Matthew Knight Arena. TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: KUJZ-FM (95.3)
This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Oregon men's basketball makes history with win against No. 5 USC Trojans