Late layup lifts USC over Oregon State, 69-68

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LOS ANGELES — The week couldn’t end fast enough for USC. When it did, the result was a hard-fought victory.

Aaron Fuller’s only basket, a layup with 4.8 seconds remaining, gave USC a 69-68 victory over Oregon State on Saturday night.

The lead changed hands eight times in the final 2:52. Eric Moreland fed Joe Burton for a layup with 12.6 seconds to play to give Oregon State (10-8, 0-4 Pac-12) a 68-67 lead.

Devon Collier’s game-winning attempt was blocked by Eric Wise as time ran out.

Byron Wesley scored 12 of his 19 points in the first half, and Wise added 18 points for the Trojans (8-11, 3-3). J.T. Terrell, who passed to Fuller for the game winner, scored 11 points.

Roberto Nelson scored a season-high tying 26 points for the Beavers, who overcame a 15-point second-half deficit to take a 49-48 lead with 11:52 remaining. Burton and Collier scored 16 points apiece.

The win was the first of the most recent interim stint for Trojans coach Bob Cantu, elevated after the school fired Kevin O’Neill on Monday. Cantu, who has been in the program 12 years, previously served as interim coach in 2011, in a loss to Arizona.

The Trojans had chances to win but lost by two against Oregon on Thursday. They had to turn around and prepare for a Beavers squad that has driven USC nuts in recent games with a 1-3-1 zone defense.

USC committed 20 turnovers Saturday.

“Man, that 1-3-1 is annoying,” Trojans guard Jio Fortan said after scoring just eight points on 2 of 2 shooting. Against Oregon, Fortan had 33 points but missed three crucial shots late.

“This week’s dragged out,” Fortan said. “We missed a game we should’ve had and got it done today in a game that should’ve been easier.”

The game was close until late in the first half, when six different USC players scored on the way to a half-closing 15-7 run and 39-31 halftime lead.

USC opened the second half by scoring seven straight points for a 15-point lead that led to an Oregon State timeout. The Beavers answered by outscoring USC 16-2 over the next 6:20 for a 49-48 lead.

“We just stayed with it (1-3-1 zone) because it was working so well,” Beavers coach Craig Robinson said. “We forced some great turnovers and got some great results.

“But we can’t enjoy it much because it is such a bitter loss.”

The Trojans didn’t score for 5:40.

“When a 15-point lead starts to evaporate, my blood pressure certainly goes up,” Cantu said. “The guys didn’t give up. They fought. We turned it over too much, but we found a way to get the win.”

Moreland and Victor Robbins returned to the Oregon State lineup after missing three games for violating team rules. Moreland had three points, eight rebounds, the late assist and three turnovers, one of which led to a late USC go-ahead score. Robbins played one minute.

Neither team led by more than four points in the final five minutes. Collier’s offensive rebound on his own miss gave OSU a 62-61 lead with 2:26 to play.

Wise put USC back on top with two free throws with 2:02 left, and the Beavers responded with Collier finding Burton down low for a layup and a 64-63 lead.

Wesley dribbled through traffic and scored a layup with 1:14 to go, and Nelson answered with a jumper to put the Beavers back on top with 45 seconds remaining.

Wise stole an inbound pass that Moreland couldn’t handle and scored for a 67-66 lead with 26 seconds left.

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