LOS ANGELES — Losses can’t come much tougher than this one.
Oregon State had a chance to take a win at Southern California in the final seconds, but Devon Collier had his shot blocked and the Beavers could not get another attempt up before the buzzer.
Instead of celebrating their first Pacific-12 Conference win of the season, the Beavers left Los Angeles empty-handed after a 69-68 loss to the Trojans.
“It was a bitter loss,” OSU coach Craig Robinson said.
The loss was particularly hard to swallow for the Beavers because they put together some of their best basketball of the season in the second half.
The rub was that the Beavers spent most of their energy erasing a 15-point USC lead.
Another slow second-half start by OSU allowed the Trojans to add a quick seven points to their 8-point halftime lead.
“We’ve got to learn that you can’t play partial games,” Robinson said. “That first minute and a half of the second half cost us the game. You don’t give up that many points and then you’ve got a shot.”
The Beavers responded, coming back with an 18-2 run sparked by the 1-3-1 zone on defense and aggressive offense by Roberto Nelson.
The Beavers forced 20 USC turnovers, including 10 by Jio Fontan.
“We just stayed with it because it was working so well,” Robinson said. “Each time that it didn’t work I was thinking, ‘OK, we’d better get out of it because they’re figuring it out,’ but we’d go out of it, go back in it and we’d have some good results. So that was nice to see that we still have that as a weapon.”
Nelson relentlessly attacked the basket, often drawing fouls when he didn’t put the ball in the basket. He hit all 10 free throws and finished with 26 points.
Joe Burton also was active on offense, getting open for layups or dropping hook shots. He had 16 on 7 of 12 shooting.
Eric Moreland returned for his first game after a three-game suspension. Moreland was effective in the 1-3-1 and had eight rebounds.
“I think he was rusty, so he wasn’t really at his normal strength,” Robinson said. “It just shows you what we were missing for those three games that he was out.”
The Beavers trailed 39-31 at the half when they gave up a follow dunk at the buzzer.
Nelson drew a foul with 5.5 seconds left and hit both free throws, but the Beavers couldn’t keep the Trojans off the glass on the final play.
Giving up too many second-chance points was an issue for the Beavers throughout the half.
Robinson said his job is to keep the team’s confidence level up after the loss.
“There was a lot of stuff to take from this game that looked like the old Oregon State, what we were doing early on in the season,” he said. “We have to work on consistency and the good thing is, I don’t think we have to work on effort. We have to be better at execution and consistency and I think if we do that we’ll be in good shape.”
Southern California 69, Oregon State 68
OREGON ST. (10-8) — Burton 7-12 2-6 16, Reid 1-4 0-0 2, Collier 7-13 2-4 16, Starks 0-1 0-0 0, Nelson 7-15 10-10 26, Robbins 0-0 0-0 0, Barton 0-3 0-0 0, Morris-Walker 0-3 2-2 2, Moreland 1-3 1-2 3, Schaftenaar 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 24-56 17-24 68.
SOUTHERN CAL (8-11) — Wise 7-12 4-8 18, Oraby 1-2 0-0 2, Fontan 2-2 2-2 8, Terrell 4-13 1-1 11, Wesley 7-13 5-6 19, Stewart 1-4 0-0 2, Bryan 0-1 0-0 0, Dedmon 2-3 1-1 5, Fuller 1-2 0-0 2, Blasczyk 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 26-53 13-18 69.
Halftime—Southern Cal 39-31. 3-Point Goals—Oregon St. 3-11 (Nelson 2-5, Schaftenaar 1-2, Morris-Walker 0-1, Barton 0-1, Starks 0-1, Moreland 0-1), Southern Cal 4-15 (Fontan 2-2, Terrell 2-7, Wesley 0-2, Wise 0-2, Stewart 0-2). Fouled Out—Dedmon. Rebounds—Oregon St. 32 (Collier, Moreland 8), Southern Cal 30 (Terrell, Wise 5). Assists—Oregon St. 15 (Starks 4), Southern Cal 12 (Wesley 3). Total Fouls—Oregon St. 15, Southern Cal 20. A—3,963.