What a game! We were behind most of the first half, but then turned on the jets in the second. As Grant said in the comments, Wintrhop wanted to play our game. We're just better at it.
In the first half, Winthrop was doing a good job of not giving us any open buckets. They were quick to the perimeter, but were also quickly collapsing down low, and it gave us fits. We tried to post up Malik early, but it led to blocked shots and turnovers. And there were no open threes because Winthrop's rotations were so good. On the flip side, the Ducks' were just really slow to rotate, and Winthrop was able to find several passes down low for wide open layins and jumper in the corner. Bryce Taylor hit a couple of jumpers early, but it was MVP that really got us going. As he has done so many times, MVP sensed that he needed to take over the game, and in the span of four possessions, he had two nice drives for layins (one was and one), and a deep three to tie the game at 17. Although Winthrop would hit a three to go up again, it was a different game at that point. Winthrop's guards were forced to sag a bit so as to not get burned by MVP's drives, and that really opened up the perimeter game for the Ducks. The next four Oregon buckets were threes, and Oregon took a four point lead into the half.
About the only bad thing I can say about the second half is that we got outrebounded, and the Eagles had a lot more second chance opportunities than they should have. But the Ducks just came out and buried Winthrop. TP came out firing, and hit three threes and a deep two in Oregon's first five buckets. This pushed the lead to double digits, and Winthrop was done. Was made it even better was that the defense turned it up a notch. The matchup zone gave Winthrop fits. Maarty, help by Tajuan Porter double teams, really controlled the paint, and the easy baskets that the Eagles had been getting in the first half were no longer there. Leunen and Porter harassed Craig Bradshaw, and the had only ten points for the whole game--and six of those were on two threes. Winthrop responded by trying to jack up threes, and promptly missed 16 of them in a row. Missing that many shots, they never had a chance to get back in the game.
- MVP just did his thing, again. He took over this game in the first half when he needed to. He was far quicker than the Winthrop guards, and used his quickness to get to the rim. When they sagged off him, he drilled the threes. The NCAA Tournament is all about your leaders coming through when needed. And this game completely changed when MVP took over.
- Tajuan Porter also played a great all around game. We know about how he came out drilling shots in the second half, but it is the other aspects of his game that go overlooked. Due to all the long rebounds off missed three pointers, TP was our leading rebounder with six. Pretty amazing for a 5'6" guard. He also helped Maarty double team Bradshaw down low the whole second half, and just made it difficult for him to get anything going.
- Not the greatest shooting night for Bryce Taylor, with nine points. But his two jumpers early kept us hanging around, and, most importantly, he played great perimeter defense. Nobody in his zone was getting any open looks.
- Malik really made an impact on this game with his hustle. 14 points, six rebounds, two steals, and an assist. Not to mention solid defense. It was probably one of his better games in the last few weeks, and he's starting to look somewhat healthy again. Plus, he was 4-4 from the line.
- After a rough first ten minutes, Maarty really controlled the paint the rest of the game. He only had four rebounds, and probably could have boxed out better, but he really concentrated on the defensive end, hassling Bradshaw and denying the entry pass. That Bradshaw, perhaps their best player, had only six shot attempts is a testament to Maarty's defensive effort.
- It was a rough game for Joevan, getting called for two offensive fouls. But he played well enough to allow Ernie to give other players a bit of rest.
We get UNLV next, which I think is a better matchup for us than Wisconsin. I'll have a bunch of stuff on UNLV up this week, so stay tuned. Also, if you missed my appearance on the SBN Sports Report, catch that here.
Let the Rebels be victim #29.
FOUR WINS TO GO!