I know I promised the Utah recap on Sunday morning. Well, things like Christmas trees got in the way, so you get it on Sunday night. I know--fifty lashes with a wet noodle. This was the first game that I have attended in person this year. I love that I can get to a game without driving all the way to Eugene. But, with the exception of the Kansas game in '02, the atmosphere at the Pape Jam, for lack of a better word, sucks. You have to get enough of a marquee name to fill the Rose Garden in order for it to have any kind of atmosphere. Teams like Utah, Nebraska, and Marshall just don't cut it. That said, lets get to the recap:
The whole first half was postively nervewracking. Our defense showed up big time, and that's what kept us in the game early as our shooting was poor and we trailed much of the first half. What made this more maddening is that we were getting key Utah players in foul trouble, as Luke Nevill and Johnnie Bryant scarcely played in the first half. Although we were consistently drawing fouls, our free throw shooting was once again abysmal (13-22, blah), and our three point shooting was not a factor. Only a couple of threes by Bryce Taylor, and some nifty layups by Tajuan in the last couple of minutes netted us a six point lead at the half.
The second half was up and down, but despite the close score, there was never a point in which you felt that Oregon was going to lose the lead. Tyler 'Cupcake' Kepkay was an annoying pest, netting 23 points, but the Ducks' shooting crept up to 53% and they were able to get the win. What made it so strange for a Duck game was that Oregon had only four three pointers. But they hit a ton of mid-range jumpers, and got to the rim a lot. The defense was also superb, shown not only by Utah's 64 points, but that they shot a measly five free throws. Oh, and despite not even attempting a three the whole game, Tajuan Porter was absolutely ridiculous. If Oregon can play with this kind of defensive intensity every game, they are going to be awfully tough to beat. As for the low three point shooting--it happens, nothing to worry about. But the free throw shooting is getting awfully concerning. There is no reason for this team to shoot sub 60% from three. And it will cost the Ducks in the conference season if it doesn't improve.
- Did I mention that Tajuan Porter is ridiculous? My main concern this season was that he would not be able to get to the rim like AB could. Silly me. He also needs no separation to get a shot off. On the downside, there is no excuse for him to ever be 2-5 from the free throw line.
- Bryce was Bryce. I really only noticed the two threes that he hit at the end of the first half. But then you look at the box score, see 20 points, and wonder how it happened. He might be the least noticeable of the big four on the court, but he has the highest NBA upside because he does everything well and doesn't need the ball.
- Joevan is becoming much more aggressive with the ball. It makes me nervous when he's the one bringing the ball up the court, but it has yet to lead to any problems. He has kind of a Charles Barkley attitude about him. With his skills, work ethic, and toughness, something tells me that he's going to be scary good by the time he leaves Eugene. He provides the tough muscle inside that Oregon traditionally lacks.
- It wasn't Maarty's best game stats wise, but he is the most underrated interior defender in the country. Luke Nevill, Utah's best player, was rendered completely useless by Maarty.
- Where was Malik? Because, again, he didn't really show up.
- Has Mitch Platt been hanging out with Jaison Williams? Because the basketball went right through his hands twice in five minutes.
- LeKendric Longmire was completely undercut on a layup attempt (and as blantant an undercut as it was, the referee had the nerve to call a charge on him. Possibly the worst call I have ever. There was one almost as bad that went the other way a bit later) and, after laying in pain on the floor for a couple of minutes, never reentered the game. Hopefully LeKendric is okay. He's a nice little perimeter defender
In all a nice win. I especially liked how well the defense was. And you wonder how scary good this team would be if everyone was clicking. The free throws have to improve, though, and that's the scariest thing thus far. The mighty Hornets of Sacramento State are up on Tuesday. Hopefully, we can get the starters a big rest.