It seemed as if Oregon was playing with house money at the Global Sports Challenge after beating UNLV on Friday night. Oregon faced a second ranked team in as many nights against Cincinnati, and had a legitimate shot to win, holding a lead with 7:00 to go. But a late 11-0 Bearcats run would prove decisive, as the Ducks fell, 77-66.
The start of the game was a total disaster for Oregon, as Cincinnati's bigs dominated the boards, pulling down 13 offensive rebounds in the half and draining eight threes. Oregon couldn't get set in its offense against a physical Cincinnati defense--the Ducks just looked completely outmatched. For those of you who remember the last time Oregon played Cincinnati in 2002-03, this was looking like the exact same game.
But there is a lot of fight in these Ducks, and a weird sequence of events, topped off by Cincinnati fouling Carlos Emory on a halfcourt shot at the buzzer, had the Ducks within nine at the half.
The second half saw a completely different Oregon team, as the Ducks were able to control the game with a stingy halfcourt defense. The Bearcats were unable to get any good shots and the Ducks slowly chipped away at the lead. Ben Carter and Arsalan Kazemi began to provide a physicality down low that Tony Woods and Waverly Austin could not and, as the turnovers and offensive rebounds that spurred Cincinnati in the first half dissipated, Oregon began asserting themselves in the game.
Unfotunately, Oregon went very cold at that point. Although the Bearcat defense was good, the Ducks still had several shots, including multiple layups, that wouldn't go in. Meanwhile, Cincinnati's Titus Rubles went crazy, scoring nine points during an 11-0 Bearcat run to seize the game. The Ducks' defense remained solid, but credit Rubles, who made several difficult shots.
It was nice to see the fight in this Oregon team, as the game should have been over when Cincinnati led by 19. Despite the Bearcats' first half dominance on the boards, Oregon actually outrebounded them on the game, 40-39, and had nearly as many offensive rebounds (18-16). Both teams played excellent defense, and that helps explain the low field goal percentages in the game (34.5% for Oregon, 37.5% for Cincinnati). However, the Ducks were only able to shoot 29% from three, while the Bearcats hit 46% (and made 11 three pointers). Oregon shot 8-36 from three for the tournament, which if very un-Oregon like.
While it was tough seeing the Ducks lose a game that they had a great chance to win, a loss to a projected top-4 Big East team isn't going to hurt you. The Ducks did get a win against UNLV that will be a major boon come March. More importantly, the young Ducks went toe-to-toe with two top-25 teams, and look like they'll be a force in the Pac-12 this season.