After sweeping the Los Angeles schools and rising to #16 in the nation, Oregon didn't expect to be down 44-38 to the Washington State Cougars midway through the second half. Thankfully, E.J. Singler brought his cape and tights with him to Matthew Knight Arena.
The senior forward had 19 points – 14 in the second half – and completely took over the game for Oregon when it was in desperate need of a spark.
"I was just feeling it," Singler said. "Some of the guys gave me some good passes, I knocked down some shots, and that just kind of got me going. From there, coach just ran some plays for me."
Senior Arsalan Kazemi also had a stellar night for the Ducks with 16 points and 7 rebounds, and freshman Damyean Dotson answered the bell with 11 and 9 for the Ducks, who maintain their one-game lead in the Pac-12.
"They really took it to us the first half, out-rebounded us, out-fought us, they won almost every stat," head coach Dana Altman said. "Second half was a lot different. Thought our guys' energy was a lot better."
"We were a step slow, not sure the reason for that, but we weren't prepared to play."
Much of the first half was dominated by the Cougars getting wide-open looks from three, going 7/13 from deep. In the second half however, Washington State went Pullman-cold from beyond the arc, missing all 12 of their attempts.
"We didn't have the energy on the defensive end, and we know we can't win the game like that," Kazemi said. "Obviously we're not happy with the effort we gave in the first half."
The Ducks went into the half down 10 and without a shred of momentum. Altman, known for his animated on-court demeanor, wasn't shy with his team in the locker room, and it paid off with a 10% increase in shooting percentage along with a decided rebounding advantage.
"We told them we were upset, disappointed," Altman said. "We've got a group of seniors that want to do something special, they have to get their team ready. We talked about that, talked about all the stats we were down on...there was plenty to talk about."
"We knew we weren't playing up to our best, and (Altman) kind of got after us at halftime," Singler added.
Led by Singler and Kazemi, Oregon came out on a 17-7 run to start the second half and after some back-and-forth, the Ducks pulled away with heightened defensive effort and a pair of thunderous slams by Carlos Emory that blew the roof off of the arena.
Oregon returns to the court on Saturday afternoon against the Washington Huskies at 4 PM. While shaky at times this season, the Huskies have only one Pac-12 loss this season (going into tonight's game at Oregon State), and it will be a different beast for the Ducks acting as the favored squad.
"It's gonna be hard, but part of it is our senior's job to pick up our leadership a little bit," Kazemi said. "We've got to step it up and can't let that happen again."