After a surprising blow-out loss to BYU, the Oregon Ducks fell out of the AP poll and headed to Las Vegas looking to get back on track and back in the rankings. Facing legendary giant-killers Chaminade, a Division II program which is perhaps best remembered for a stunning victory over the Ralph Sampson-led and top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers decades ago, the Ducks opened play in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. Concerns over the on-going Covid pandemic caused the tournament’s move from its traditional home in Hawaii to Vegas. Chaminade comes into the game undefeated, having hosted Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage.
Both teams started the game ice cold from the field. After taking an early 3-0 lead on an Eric Williams, Jr free throw and a De’Vion Harmon layup, the Ducks missed 5 consecutive 3-point shots, including an airball, in the first 4 minutes of the half. Chaminade got untracked to take a brief 5-3 lead. Oregon’s defense - led by the high energy substitution of Franck Kepnang - kept Chaminade off the scoreboard. Oregon, continuing to rely on outside shooting rather than it’s inside size advantage, finally got going in the middle of the first half. Led by 3-pointers from Williams, and a layup by Jacob Young, the Ducks went on a 12-0 run to lead 15-5 with 11:50 to go in the half. Despite continued spotty shooting, Oregon’s defense held strong and the Ducks extended the lead to 21-7 and a 17-2 run. Unfortunately, Chaminade’s shooting touch returned, and combined with some Oregon fouls, this allowed the Silverswords to claw back into the game. After Oregon pushed the lead to 24-11 with 5:35 left in the half, Chaminade went on a run to cut the lead to 26-22 with less than a minute left in the first half. Harmon scored, however, on a tough driving layup and was fouled. His made free throw brought the halftime score to 29-22 Ducks. In the first half, Oregon continued its poor shooting performance from the BYU game, making only 29.7 percent of its field goals and 21 percent from the 3-point line. Chaminade shot only 25 percent from the field, but 30 percent from 3. Williams, Jr led Oregon in scoring with 10 points in the half, and Kepnang added 6 points off the bench. Quincy Guerrier led Oregon with 6 rebounds.
Oregon came out with a completely different plan in the 2nd half. After declining to work the ball inside and settling for many outside shots, the Ducks began looking inside from the opening whistle. Oregon opened the half with 6 points in the paint to stretch the lead to 35-24. Oregon also dialed up the defensive pressure, including some full court pressing, which led to some easy layups off turnovers. Continuing to work the ball inside also paid dividends as Oregon stretched the lead to 16 at 44-28 as N’Faly Dante, working his way back from injury, scored on a jump hook inside. Constant defensive pressure, cold shooting by Chaminade and excellent ball rotation and penetration opened Oregon’s lead to 20 with 11:00 left in the game, effectively ending the threat. From there it was a chance for Dante to work on his “game legs” as he ran the floor effectively, and for Oregon to empty the bench as every Duck in uniform saw action. The Ducks continued running layup drills off good defensive work, and fed their “Big” lineup featuring 7-footers Nate Biddle and Isaac Johnson. Johnson particularly showed good footwork and interior presence on offense, finishing with 8 points on 4-4 shooting. The Ducks were content to trade baskets for most of the final 8 minutes or so, finishing the game with a seemingly easy 73-49 victory.
Oregon’s shooting picked up considerably in the 2nd half as they worked the ball inside, racking up a 42-18 scoring advantage in the paint. The Ducks finished 30-68 (44%), but shot only 28 percent from beyond the arc. Williams led Oregon in scoring with 14 and Harmon added 13, the only two Ducks in double figures. Dante came off the bench to score 8, including 3-3 from the field. Guerrier led Oregon with 8 rebounds. Chaminade was led by Watkins with 13.
Oregon moves to 3-1, and next faces the winner of tonight’s St. Mary’s/Notre Dame tilt. In its most recent appearance in the Maui Invitational in 2016, Oregon finished 2-1 and went on to a March Madness Final Four appearance.