The Oregon Ducks used a dominant third quarter to pull away from Southern Utah and coasted to a 66 - 54 victory in Matthew Knight Arena this evening. The 18th-ranked Ducks used a 24 - 8 scoring advantage in the third quarter to build a 26-point lead before backing off in the 4th quarter, which Southern Utah won 21 - 7. Oregon Coach Kelly Graves had hoped for a more intense wire-to-wire effort from the Ducks, who will face #8 North Carolina in the PK80 tournament in Portland on Thursday where maximum effort is likely to be required.
Early on, the game featured turnovers and missed shots from both teams. TeHina PaoPao hit her first shot to give Oregon the 2 - 0 lead, but the Ducks would not score again for almost 2 minutes. Chance Gray hit a 3 for Oregon but Southern Utah hit two shots close in to keep the game tight. Oregon opened up an 11 - 6 lead on a Grace VanSlooten steal and coast-to-coast layup. Southern Utah, however, kept the game close largely by an excellent effort on rebounding. In one example that would be repeated throughout the game, the Thunderbirds missed a jumper, but grabbed the rebound, drove and scored a layup to close the score to 16 - 12. Oregon would have a difficult time in this game, especially late, staying with Southern Utah players driving to the basket from the wings. The Thunderbirds managed to get within 3 points at 18 - 15 with 2:29 left in the quarter, but Oregon then went on a 6 - 0 run to lead at the first quarter break 24 - 15. PaoPao had 7 points, 2 assists and 2 steals in the quarter and VanSlooten added 6 points.
In the first 5 minutes of the quarter, Oregon asserted itself on both ends of the court. PaoPao, Jennah Isai, Phillipina Kyei and Endyia Rogers all contributed points and Oregon turned up the defensive heat, challenging shots and making steals to move out to a 31 - 19 lead with 4:56 left in the quarter. Oregon would maintain about a 10-point lead for the rest of the quarter despite some close-in missed shots. The Ducks continued to pressure Southern Utah shooters and Oregon headed to the halftime locker room ahead 35 - 25.
For the half, PaoPao led the Ducks with 9 points, VanSlooten had 6 and Isai also contributed 6 points off the bench. Kyei led with 4 rebounds. The Duck defense forced 12 turnovers and the offense shot 51.6 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. Southern Utah had an 18 - 14 advantage in rebounding, but the Ducks led 26 - 14 in points in the paint and 7 - 0 on fastbreak points.
The Ducks had perhaps their best quarter of the season thus far in the third. Kyei set the tone with a block of Southern Utah’s first shot of the quarter and Oregon cranked up the defensive intensity it had displayed earlier in the game. Oregon consistently worked or drove the ball inside and drew repeated fouls from the Thunderbirds. Southern Utah did not get its first points until 3 minutes had elapsed and Oregon had already scored 7 to lead 42 - 27. The Ducks used some full-court pressure and some excellent trapping in the half court to continue to force turnovers and have chances to run out. Oregon had its first 20-point lead at 4:40 on a Taya Hanson 3-pointer at 49 - 29. Oregon would close out the quarter on a 10 - 4 run with Chance Gray contributing a 3-pointer and a steal and layup, Hanson knocked down another 3 and Taylor Hosendove scored inside. By the time the quarter ended, Oregon had outscored the Thunderbirds 24 - 8 and led 59 - 33.
In some ways, the fourth quarter was a mirror image of the third. Although there wasn’t evidence of a general fall-off of effort on Oregon’s part, the Ducks began to allow more penetration on drives by Southern Utah from the wings that frequently went all the way for pretty easy layups. Sitting on a 26-point lead, Oregon wasn’t in real danger of losing, but Coach Graves seemed a bit agitated on the sidelines and frequently used timeout huddles to exhort the team to close out the Thunderbirds. After VanSlooten scored on a beautiful lob pass at the basket to put Oregon up 61 - 33, Southern Utah went on an 11 - 0 run over the next 3 minutes to close to 61 - 44. PaoPao hit a 3 to break the Thunderbird’s run and restore a 20-point Oregon lead. But Oregon would score only one more basket over the remaining 5:47 as Southern Utah went on a 10 - 2 run, ultimately winning the quarter 21 - 7 and making what could have been a blow-out into a respectable 66 - 54 loss.
For the game, PaoPao led Oregon scorers with 17 points while Gray and VanSlooten were also in double-figures at 12. Kyei had 9 rebounds and a blocked shot to go with 6 points. Rogers had 3 assists and 4 steals while PaoPao contributed 4 assists and 2 steals. Isai and Hanson each had 6 points off the bench. Oregon’s shooting fell off late in the game and they finished at just 42.9 percent from the field, but most of the misses came from close in as the 3-point percentage finished at 43.8 percent, an improvement over the first half. Oregon’s defense forced 21 turnovers. Surprisingly, Southern Utah ultimately outrebounded Oregon 41 - 33.
Oregon next plays #8 North Carolina in the first round of the PK80 Phil Knight Invitational in Portland on Thursday at 2:00 pm. Join ATQ for coverage of this early-season challenge.