In a season that we knew would be tough, where we have no right to have any expectations, there have been few things we've really wanted. Sure, we'd always love a win over Washington, and finding a way to knock off Duke would have been nice, but we knew that both of those were just a pipe dream. However, there was one thing we really wanted that we knew was realistically attainable: a split with the Beavers.
After tonight, at least that is assured.
After a bit of a back and forth start, Oregon asserted itself for most of the first half, building a 17 point lead and threatening to blow the Beavers out of Gill. Remember last year's game at Mac Court, where Oregon looked completely inept against the 1-3-1, giving the ball to the Beavers seemingly on demand? This was pretty much the opposite of that, as the Ducks handled the zone with little trouble. Of course, it helped that Oregon was shooting at a completely uncharacteristic pace, ending the game at 50% from the field and 40% from three (Garrett Sim was blistering in the first half). But it was night and day from last year, and Oregon was able to both take care of the ball and get good looks at the bucket, most of which they put down.
Meanwhile, it was Oregon State that was having trouble with the Ducks' mix of zones, as turnovers and bad shots fueled the Duck run. There was a two minute stretch where Teondre Williams alone blocked a shot, has a nasty put-back jam, drew a charge, and canned a wide open three. With Oregon hitting their shots, it also allowed them time to set up in their defense, further delaying the Beaver drought. It also helped that OSU star Jared Cunningham was on the bench with foul trouble.
Finally, with a few minutes to go in the game, Oregon State made an interesting move that got them back in the game. The Beavers did something they rarely do--went man-to-man on the defensive end, and the result was two quick Oregon turnovers. Lathen Wallace was a one man wrecking crew on the offensive end, and the Beavers ended the half on an 8-0 run, cutting the Duck lead to nine at the break.
The Beavers continued to chip away, and when they took a four point lead with nine minutes to go, I thought the Ducks were toast. They had just given up a seventeen point lead, Oregon State had all the momentum, Oregon was turning the ball over, and the Ducks back to their old ways of shooting brick after brick.
Enter Jay-R Strowbridge to the rescue.
Strowbridge hit buckets on three possessions in a row to stop the Oregon State run and give the Ducks a narrow lead that the would not relinquish. Oregon tried to let the Beavs back in the game offensively--there were a few turnovers, EJ Singler took some awful shots, and the Ducks couldn't hit their free throws to ice the game, but Sim and Strowbridge hit dagger threes, and Strowbridge finally hit two free throws with seven seconds left to ice it.
If you look just at the stat sheet, you wouldn't think Oregon won this game. The Beavers had four more shot attempts and four fewer turnovers. Rebounds were pretty much even. And OSU got to the line with much more regularity (18-11 FTA advantage). But Oregon forced the Beavers into a lot of tough shots, then won this game with their own shooting, which is something I never thought I'd be saying this season.
Jay-R Strowbridge: Props to Jay-R in what will go down as his most important performance as a Duck. Oregon State came back from 17 down to take control of the game, and Strowbridge not only stopped the bleeding, but took the game over. 15 points, 11 of which came in the last ten minutes. We don't with this game without him.
Joevan Catron: Returned to action, but had a pretty non-descript game (8 points, 6 boards, 4 turnovers). The Beavers were really collapsing on him hard (which all teams have done in conference play).
Jeremy Jacob: Did not play while resting his knee injury.
Garrett Sim: Came out on fire, and has really been shooting the ball well since the Washington trip. 6-10 for the game, 3-7 from three.
Teondre Williams: Only played ten minutes, but packed a bunch into it. Was one of the main catalysts of the first half run, and finished with five points, three rebounds, an assist, a block, and a charge drawn.
E.J. Singler: Another rough shooting night, especially with some bad shots in the second half. However, he made up for it with some huge defensive plays, including a big block and big steal late in the game.
Malcolm Armstead: Its still evident he's not right. Scoreless in 23 minutes.
Nice to know that we've got at least a split in the bag, but with the second game at home, I want the sweep. And, what the heck, lets take the womens' series, too, starting with Sunday's game at MKA. Beaver Nation is extra bitter about this one, and their tears are tasting mighty sweet. The more jealous and bitter the little brother gets, the more fun it is to beat them.
Next up is the dreaded Bay Area trip, a land where the Ducks almost always come out of the weekend 0-2. The Ducks play Thursday at Stanford for a 7:00 tip. No TV is scheduled.