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USC basketball: In Matthew Knight Arena debut, Ducks lead Trojans at halftime, 32-26

Philknight_600

Well, after that over-the-top pregame ceremony (more on that later) at Oregon's new, $200-million Matthew Knight Arena, a basketball game is finally under way between Oregon and USC.

At halftime, after a rather ugly start, the Ducks are ahead, 32-26.

Each team started slowly, seemingly cold after waiting for the pregame festivities to end.

Nearly eight minutes into the game, Oregon led 7-4, and the two teams had combined to shoot five for 21 from the field. 

The unusual, brown-and-tan floor that represented a skyward look through a fir forest clearing, a homage to a historic Oregon team, was rumored to distract players both foreign and domestic.

So for the ugly start to the game, just blame that.

USC struggled against Oregon's 2-3 zone defense -- just as the Trojans do against any zone defense -- and fell behind, 17-9, with 9:50 left.

But then Trojans senior guard Donte Smith scored eight of USC's next 12 points and tied the score at 21 on a three-point jumper with 2:59 left.

At that point, USC had shot nine for 23, Oregon had shot nine for 26, and each team had committed five turnovers. Not exactly a pretty game.  

Smith is keeping USC in it, though. He made his first five shots, including three from beyond the arc, scoring a game-high 13 points. Junior guard Garrett Sim leads Oregon with eight points.

Oregon junior forward Tyrone Nared slammed back Sim's missed layup at the buzzer to give the Ducks a six-point lead going into the locker room. 

As for that pregame ceremony, here's pretty much how it went down: 

It lasted about 30 minutes and was solemn at first as Nike co-founder and Oregon alum Phil Knight spoke about how much the arena, which is named after his late son who died at the age of 34 in a scuba diving accident, means to him.

"I've got to believe Matt is looking down, pleased -- as my grandmother used to say -- pleased as punch, and I'm sure one of the things that makes him happiest is that so many friends and family are here," Knight said to the capacity crowd of 12,500. 

But when he was done, things started to go a little over the top. The Duck mascot was lowered from the ceiling as the band, including a drumline, played on the floor. Cheerleaders danced about. 

Soon, there were fireworks, lasers, students poured onto the court and ran around screaming, the band played some more, the cheerleaders danced some more -- and it just went on ... and ... on ... and ... on.

Ducks football coach Chip Kelly, a man known not to waste a second, was probably dying inside. 

When the smoke finally cleared, the teams retook the floor and started the game off cold, no surprise.  

Oh, last thing, there have been some glitches with the Ducks' enormous scoreboard that's hanging over center court. 

-- Baxter Holmes in Eugene, Ore. 

Photo: USC and Oregon get ready to play at $200-million Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore., on Thursday night. Credit: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images

 
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