The Oregon Ducks found themselves in another Pac-12 thriller on Wednesday night against the Washington Huskies. This time, the Ducks managed to come out on top with a 78-71 win over their rivals to the north. Matthew Knight Arena has turned into Washington’s personal Hell, as they have yet to win in the building since it opened back in 2011. The win also marked the 500th of Oregon head coach Dana Altman’s career.
Mike Moser led the Ducks with 20 points on 8-12 shooting, including a three-point play in the late moments of the game to seal the victory. Joseph Young and Damyean Dotson also had big nights with 18 and 17 points respectively. Oregon’s bench, normally a key source of scoring, was relatively quiet with just 14 points. Eight of those came from Elgin Cook who also added in four rebounds.
For the Huskies, Perris Blackwell came off the bench and provided the Huskies with 17 points and five rebounds, giving Oregon a major headache in the paint. Andrew Andrews hit all seven of his free throws, scoring 15 points to go along with 7 rebounds. C.J. Wilcox, who torched the Ducks last month in Seattle, scored just nine points with seven of those coming in the second half.
"When you got a scorer like Wilcox and they’re going to him and you don’t allow him to get an easy look, you’ve got to feel good about that," said Altman.
The game got off to a fast start with both sides having no trouble scoring. The Ducks pushed the tempo early and found their outside shot, jumping out to an early lead thanks to three-pointers from Joseph Young and Damyean Dotson. Washington on the other hand exploited Oregon’s lack of size, getting inside baskets with relative ease. Six of the Huskies’ first 10 points came off of layups from Desmond Simmons.
When the outside shots wouldn’t fall for the Huskies, they managed to drive to the rim and draw the fouls, keeping things close with high percentage shooting from the line, hitting five of their first six free throws midway through the first half.
Things continued to go back and forth between the two teams. A three-pointer from Moser gave Oregon a five point lead with 9:16 to play, but the Ducks went cold immediately after, going almost three minutes without a basket. The Huskies went through a stretch of nearly five minutes without a jumper, but continued to easily get the ball in the paint. If they weren’t able to come up with an inside basket, they managed to draw the fouls and hit their free throws to keep the game close.
C.J. Wilcox went scoreless for nearly the entire first half. His first basket came with 1:16 left in the half as he blew by Dominic Artis to the rim. Wilcox was on the bench for just one minute but attempted only four shots. It was clear that Washington’s game plan was to attack the paint against Oregon as Simmonds and Blackwell combined for 20 points during the first half.
The Ducks started things off on the right foot in the second half with a ten straight points to take a 46-39 lead, their largest of the night to that point. The run was capped off with a three-pointer from Joseph Young, pumping new life into the team and fans. Loyd said before the team hit the floor, he took the opportunity to try and fire his teammates up.
"I was just saying, ‘Whatever you do, just play as hard as you can when you’re out there. Don’t worry about nothing else. Just go hard and we’ll be fine,’" said Loyd.
The Huskies responded back with a 7-2 scoring run to cut Oregon’s lead to just one, including a three-pointer and a goaltending basket from Nigel Williams-Goss off a turnover courtesy of Johnathan Loyd.
It was then Oregon’s turn to answer back with a 7-2 run of their own to jump back out to a 58-52 lead which included a three-pointer from Loyd and a second chance inside basket from Dotson who wasn’t boxed out.
Richard Amardi made his case to be featured on SportsCenter’s Not Top 10 when he missed a breakaway dunk. No defenders at all, he just simply missed it. My only guess is that he was trying to think of some fancy dunk to fire the fans up and just overthought it. They don’t reward style points, so a basic dunk in a close game is probably the route one should take on that play.
The missed dunk sparked an 8-2 run for the Huskies which included back-to-back three-pointers from Wilcox and Darin Johnson.
Oregon got a much needed three-point play from Dotson who delivered a layup and a free throw to put the Ducks up by five with 8:17 to go. Oregon would build that lead up to eight points two minutes later after a pair of free throws from Ben Carter.
During the second half, the Ducks were able to adjust defensively, forcing the Huskies to play catch-up for much of the second half. The game was close all the way through, but it was Oregon who seemed to have a firmer hold on things as the game went on.
"I thought our defensive intensity really picked up in the second half," said Altman. "It was much different than the first half."
The Ducks had a scary moment as Joseph Young took a spill over the photographers late in the game. He would take a few minutes to get looked at by the trainers before checking back in, but he appeared to be fine. When he went down though, you could hear a pin drop in the arena as it did take him a couple moments to get back up.
Moments later, Damyean Dotson also had to be taken out after injuring his left hand on a rebound play. He had provided a huge spark for Oregon in the second half and his absence was certainly felt. The Ducks committed three turnovers in as many minutes as the Huskies cut Oregon’s lead down to three.
Then, Mike Moser delivered the biggest basket of the night for the Ducks. Leading by just three, Moser threw down a dunk while managing to draw the foul for the three-point play to put Oregon up by six with 1:30 to go.
"We actually messed up the play, but kind of just broke it off and I did my own thing," said Moser. "It just worked out, really."
The play would seal the victory for Oregon as Washington managed just one free throw the rest of the way. The Huskies' last field goal came with 2:34 left on the clock.
After a dismal start to conference play, being able to string together a couple wins is exactly what Oregon needs as it comes down to crunch time. The Ducks have five games left, including a final homestand against Arizona State and Arizona, both of which Oregon fell to earlier this month. Every win is a crucial piece to Oregon’s NCAA tournament puzzle.
"We need all of these," said Loyd. "We’re kind of on the bubble still. We had a little slide. We have a sense of urgency to win all these games."
Next up for Oregon will be Washington State on Sunday. In their previous matchup against the Cougars this season in Pullman, the Ducks came out with a 71-44 win to stop a five-game losing streak. Oregon is hoping for a similar result on Sunday as they try and keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.
"The great thing for us is that we’re going to have our shot," said Altman. "It starts again on Sunday."
From the Media Room
"We get a couple days here to kind of get our second wind. It’s just big. The leadership we’re getting from Johnny, Jason and Dot, I feel like they’re really giving us a sense of urgency. Going into this last game of the weekend, it’s going to be big for us." - Mike Moser on what these late season wins mean.
The seniors have tried to lead. Its really important to those guys to finish strong. I like the way they’ve handled it. - Dana Altman on how his seniors have handled the adversity of this season.
"We wanted to get some energy going. Johnny attacked the basket on that first possession and Mike made a good move. We get a three-point play which allowed us to set a press. Then the crowd got into it a little bit and got some transition. We didn’t play with the energy and bounce we wanted to in the first half." - Dana Altman on the 10-0 run to start the second half.
It gives us that scorer that spreads the floor. When you go back and look at Mike’s stats, the games he’s played really well in, we’ve been pretty good. He gives us a big score when he’s scoring like that. When he finishes those drives inside like he did, it puts a lot of pressure on the rim. - Dana Altman on what Mike Moser brings to the team.
Those three games that we lost by two, we played pretty hard and played pretty good. When a game comes down to one or two possessions, it’s hard to say that you didn’t play well. We didn’t finish well offensively in this one, but I thought defensively we finished a lot better. - Dana Altman on the close games Oregon has found themselves in this season.
Media Row Tidbits
- The games nowadays are filled with quirky promotions. One such promotion, sponsored by Outback Steakhouse, is a three-point shooting contest where one fan must hit five threes in 35 seconds to win his whole row free Bloomin’ Onions. He hit four, yet the entire section still won free Bloomin’ Onions! It’s as rigged as Olympic ice dancing!
- When Washington’s Andrew Andrews went to the line for free throws, the Pit Crew proceeded to taunt him by chanting, "Two first names." He’s probably never heard that one before
- The win was the 90th of Johnathan Loyd’s career, the most of any player in team history. The previous mark was held by E.J. Singler. After the game, Loyd said he was calling Singler immediately after the press conference to rub it in. The two became close friends while together at Oregon.
- Attendance was low once again, perhaps due to the fact that it was a 6:00 pm tip on a Wednesday night. The arena was just about half full with 6,792 fans in attendance. The Pit Crew was also thin, with the section not starting to fill up until the game began. Even then, a patch of seats in the corner remained empty all night. I get it with the other fans. Can't get off work in time, it's a school night for the kids, this and that. But I can vouch from experience that a Wednesday night game at 6:00 pm is no valid reason for any student not to be here. It takes two hours out of your day to support your school and not embarrass yourselves on ESPN with empty seats. Take a study break and fill the seats that you're essentially getting for free. It shouldn't be hard.
- The band was actually allowed to play a little bit more tonight. This season, the school introduced a live DJ at the arena, creating a club-like atmosphere. Many fans (and students) have complained about Ducks games at Matthew Knight Arena feeling more like an NBA game than a college game. In my opinion, it'll never feel like a college game in this arena with the in-game experience they've created, but at least the band wasn't totally shut out tonight like they had been recently.
That's a wrap for this one. We'll see you all back here on Sunday for a weekend matinee showdown against the Cougs. I never like to say that a team can look past an opponent, but with a 2-11 record in Pac-12 play, Washington State shouldn't provide too many problems for the Ducks. But then again, this is the Pac-12 where everyone beats everyone, so who knows?