As is usually the case in adrenaline-laden NCAA openers, the game started sloppy for both teams. Oregon turned the ball over on three of their first four possessions, with their only bucket coming on a dunk after Oklahoma State lost sight of Jordan Bell. The transition offense was Oregon's friend early, with six of Oregon's nine points before the first media timeout coming on easy fast break scores.
Once the game settled in, Oklahoma State's half-court offense was very effective, using their size advantage with Le'Bryan Nash and Michael Cobbins to get easy twos, and then kickout threes to Anthony Hickey when Oregon's zone sagged down low. A 10-4 Oklahoma State run coming out of the under-8:00 media timeout put the Cowboys up 36-28, their largest lead of the first half, but Oregon would finish the first half on a 15-3 run.
Dillon Brooks was the early catalyst for the Ducks in the first half, finding an quick offensive rhythm on the way to 11 early points. Elgin Cook was also able to take advantage of a speed mismatch and find his way to the rim consistently in the first half.
Perhaps the most shocking first-half development was Joseph Young's long absence from the scoring column, and his subsequent rise to the top of the charts. Young didn't attempt a shot until nearly five minutes into the game, didn't score until a pair of free throws with 13:39 to go in the first half, and didn't knock down his first field goal until almost sixteen minutes into the game. However, in true Joey Buckets fashion, he followed up his first three with two more in the next two and half minutes, going from invisible to white-hot almost instantly. Young scored Oregon's final fifteen points of the first half. Thanks to the scoring burst from Young, Oregon took their biggest lead of the half into the locker room, as they led 43-39 after the first twenty minutes.
Oregon provided the first highlight of the second half on their opening possession on an alley-oop from Brooks to Bell. Then Joseph Young took over. First, a reverse layup in transition. Next, a nifty up-and-under layup that forced an OSU timeout. Then, a long two-pointer from the corner. And finally, a left-handed thunder dunk that made Chris Webber make a squealing noise usually only heard from tweens at a One Direction concert. Despite all this, Oklahoma State stayed right in the game with three-pointers and timely offensive rebounding, taking their first lead of the second half at 55-54 on a Phil Forte three. The Cowboys hit five of their first six from downtown in the second half.
During Oregon's current hot streak, it's seemed like the early part of the second half has belonged to Elgin Cook, and tonight was no different, the junior using his combination of size and strength to work for six tough points right when the Ducks needed it most, allowing Oregon to weather Oklahoma State's hot shooting run and maintain a lead.
A three-point play from Dillon Brooks and a backcourt steal and dunk from Dwayne Benjamin put Oregon up 70-62, but Oklahoma State battled back with seven straight points, cutting the Oregon to lead to one at the final media timeout. After the timeout, the game went like this: Brooks three-pointer, Oregon stop, Jordan Bell dunk, Oregon stop. Just like that, the Ducks were up six with less than two minutes to go. The game did not end without some dicey-ness, after a Jalil Abdul-Bassit free throw miss gave Oklahoma State the ball, down four, with 21.7 seconds to go. But Jordan Bell refused to let the Cowboys get a shot off, blocking two shots in the last ten seconds. Joseph Young capped off a 27 point night with a pair of free throws, and the game was over.
Oregon advances to the Round of 32 on Sunday, where they will presumably face the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina.
Miscellaneous Game Thoughts:
- The yellow strap on the Nike KD 7's Oregon players were wearing made it look like the guys were playing in flip-flops. I'm pretty sure Joe Young could actually wear flip-flops in a tourney game and still score double digits.
- NBA teams need instant offense off the bench, a la Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, Isiah Thomas, or JR Smith. Joseph Young will find a home in the Association.
- Le'Bryan Nash is frightening, and could do pretty much whatever he wanted against a soft Oregon front line. Oregon's seen him twice in tournament games, and that's enough for me.
- Dwayne Benjamin had a tough first half, but picked it up after halftime with two steals and a few big rebounds. He never could find the three-point stroke that was crucial for Oregon down the stretch, and that inside-out play will be crucial on Sunday.