The opportunity was there for Oregon.
Joseph Young hit a pair of free throws to pull the Ducks to within two with just a shade under two minutes to go. All Oregon needed was a stop.
Unfortunately, Michigan's Zak Irvin hit a backbreaking three, and No. 19 Michigan pulled away for a 70-63 neutral site win at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Oregon, playing with an eight man rotation due to their notorious depth issues, hung with the Wolverines all night long. Despite major depth and experience advantages, Michigan just couldn't shake the Ducks. Only once did the Michigan lead stretch to as many as eight points, and Oregon stormed back to tie it just a couple of minutes later. What Oregon couldn't do was take a lead. Oregon never led despite the vast majority of the contest being played within four points.
The biggest story of the game was Michigan's defense. They we suffocating at hedging screens and closing out on shooters. Oregon was held to just 39% shooting as the Wolverines cut off all dribble penetration and held the Ducks to mostly contested jumpers in the half court. However, it was Oregon's hustle that kept them in the game outrebounding the Wolverines 41-28, and using 18 offensive rebounds to get easy buckets against Michigan's suffocating half court defense. Indeed, the Ducks outshot the Wolverines by 13.
Unfortunately, the Ducks just couldn't get enough stops when they needed to. Michigan shot 46% from the field and, more importantly, shot 11 more free throws than Oregon. The Wolverine offense for a stretch devolved into a game of barrel into the key and get bailed out with a whistle. But the Ducks needed to do a better job of stopping that dribble penetration in the first place.
Michigan really keyed in on Joseph Young and, while he scored 20 points, he shot 5-16 from the field to do it, rarely having an uncontested shot. Freshman Dillon Brooks played an outstanding game for the Ducks, scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds before fouling out late. Elgin Cook had 13 and six.
The biggest downside for Oregon was Dwayne Benjamin. Benjamin had a really nice game with eight points and 11 rebounds, but rolled his ankle late in the second half. Benjamin was in obvious pain and was unable to put any weight on his leg. He'll undoubtedly be out for tomorrow's game with VCU, and probably will miss longer (the Ducks play Portland State and Concordia over the next two weeks). With only and eight man rotation, any injury is key, and walk-on Theo Friedman will likely have to enter that rotation for the forseeable future.
Overall, it was a positive result for Oregon, who communicated and played together far better than you would expect for a team with so many new parts. This isn't a loss that will hurt the Ducks come March, but the challenge is to come out and compete with another top twenty team, an angry VCU squad that was blown out by Villanova tonight.