No.11 Oregon continues to stay hot from behind the arch, leaving Houston in their wake with impressive second half performance.
Flash back to the Sweet 16, Oregon and Houston looked like polar-opposite teams. Head coach Dana Altman had some upperclassmen, but his roster was mostly comprised of young, maturing players. On the other side of the court, Houston’s shot caller Kelvin Sampson’s roster was comprised of grizzled vets. And now the teams couldn’t be more opposite.
Altman has his savvy veterans, accompanied by young, talented underclassman, and Sampson is, well, back to square one. In all honesty, Oregon’s mistakes kept the game close in the first half. Sloppy play early, leading to an irregularly high amount of turnovers allowed the poor-shooting Cougars to remain close.
While Oregon’s offense was a little slow coming out of the gates, the threes were falling. Unfortunately their defense could do little to prevent Houston from converting second-chance buckets. The Cougars out-rebounded Oregon 38-26, dominating the offensive glass with 17 boards, compared to Oregon's four.
Three-point shooting led by the brotherly tandem of senior, Payton Pritchard and grad-transfer Anthony Mathis kept the Ducks afloat. Houston out-shot Oregon by 10 attempts, it was the Ducks’ 6-12 three-point shooting in the first half and juco-transfer, Chris Duarte’s eight points in the closing five minutes that gave Oregon a nice five-point cushion.
At the end of one, Houston was just 1-of-11 beyond the three-point line, but led 13 to 2 in second chance points. Fortunately, Oregon took the lead into the half and didn’t look back.
Houston cut the lead to within three with a jumper from Jabian White Jr. and a couple free throws from Quentin Grimes to begin the second half, but that’s about as close as they would get. Oregon continued to put pressure on the ball and from the transition game bred opportunity in way of the three ball. Within a few short minutes Oregon extended their lead to 10 with a little D and three from the red-hot Mathis.
Mathis would once again give the Ducks a three-point lead with a four-point conversion after hitting his free-throw following the and-one from range. What else would you expect from Mathis, who’s been a dead-eye from deep.
The crescendo to cap off the game, or the hammer if you will, was unleashed by sophomore Francis Okoro. The block and slam couldn’t have happened without the sweet alley-oop assist from Duarte. Leading an emphatic mark on the Houston psyche.
The emphasis dunk gave Oregon a commanding 64-47 lead with just 7:23 remaining. Okoro finished the game with 12 points, while Mathis led the team with 18. The grad-transfer shot 5-9 from beyond the three-point line, shooting 6-11 from the field. Pritchard was just a bucket shy of Mathis’ 18, finishing with a respectable 16 points himself. Duarte’s eight points came entirely in the first half, but his contributions were felt far more than just in his scoring.
Oregon carries their five-game winning streak into the Battle 4 Atlantis as they take on No. 13 ranked Seton Hall on Wednesday down in the Bahamas. Let’s see if this squad can keep their heads out of the sand and bring home some hardware as they try to continue to stay undefeated.