EUGENE -- Head coach, Dana Altman, won his 100th game as an Oregon Duck when the men’s basketball team defeated Toledo 78 to 68. Senior guard Joseph Young, who was named to the Wooden Award preseason Top 50 watch list this week, led the way with 24 points. Young continued his perfection from the free throw line as he finished 7 of 7 from the charity stripe. He is now 18 of 18 on the season.
"Today was a big hurdle for us," said Altman after the game. "I was worried about this game when I saw it on the schedule. They’re well coached, I like their team, I like their players, I knew we would have our hands full."
During the week coach Altman was asking fans to come support the team, the students answered Friday afternoon. Although there was a black curtain that covered the top half of the student section the Pit Crew was energetic and helped propel the gritty Oregon defense in the first half. Along with Young, the Oregon charge was led by three freshman: Jordan Bell, Casey Benson, and Dillon Brooks.
After trailing Toledo 5-0 Brooks hit a three-pointer that gave Oregon its few first points of the game. On the following defensive possession Brooks poked a ball loose that led to a Young layup. Toledo would regain the lead at 14 to 9 before a television timeout stopped play. During intermission Benson checked in and made an immediate impact coming off the bench. Quick ball movement by the Duck's offense led to a Benson three-pointer that cut Toledo's lead to two points. A few minutes passed and Benson, on a fast break, dished it off to Young which gave the Ducks a 17 to 4 lead. Bell may have had only had two points in the first half, but where he contributed the most was the hustle plays and grabbing boards. He finished the first half with five rebounds.
Young entered the afternoon averaging 27 points per game, which was good enough for him to be the number three scorer in the nation. With a couple minutes to go, he only had seven points and it looked like the Rockets found a way to defend his offense. Young had other thoughts and scored two three-pointers that gave him 13 first half points as the Ducks headed into halftime leading 36 to 34.
"I handled the pressure a little bit and I had a couple turnovers, but I didn't let it bring me down," said Young during the post game press conference. "I felt like they were backing up and I [thought], 'alright I'm going to pull up this three now'."
As the second half progressed the Ducks started to extend their lead and the veterans closed out the game. Elgin Cook had the play of the game when he drove to the basket hard and ended the play with an emphatic one-handed slam that brought the crowd to their feet. The lone Toledo mom that was standing and cheering for her Rockets squad sat down and never stood up again after Cook showed the visitors from Ohio what Ian Eagle calls a "man’s slam."
Cook heated up in the second half scoring 9 of his 13 points during the closing period. Transfer Dwayne Benjamin finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds, scoring four of his points on back to back alley-oops. Brooks caught the Rocket defense sleeping twice and passed it to a soaring Benjamin who converted both passes into points. The Ducks won the game by wanting it more in the end and rebounding. As a team Oregon out rebounded Toledo 46 to 36. Oregon will use this game for confidence as they enter the toughest two game stretch in their non-conference schedule.
"Jordan blocked four shots, 12 rebounds by Elgin, 12 rebounds by Dwayne, those are all really good signs for our team," said Altman. "We got to get everyone involved rebounding. With those guys going in and getting those boards, it is really encouraging."
What’s next for Oregon?
The men’s basketball team will not have much time to rest. The Ducks fly out tomorrow morning out of Portland and will land in Brooklyn tomorrow afternoon. Altman made it a point of emphasis during the post game press conference that the team will land before the Oregon football team kicks off against Colorado. They will have a practice at Brooklyn’s arena Sunday night before they tip-off against No. 24 Michigan Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the Progressive Legends Classic.
"I haven’t watched a lot, I watched part of the Detroit game," said Altman about upcoming opponent, Michigan. "They spread the floor, they run a two guard front with the high post, they run some of the same stuff."