In what turned out to be the game no one expected, Oregon pulled off a couple of surprises, dominated inside in the second half and pulled away for a 74 - 60 home victory over Washington State. Oregon benefited from the quick return of N’Faly Dante - who early in the week was said to be in Concussion Protocol - and the first action from Brennan Rigsby who had missed the first 7 games with a foot injury. Dante tied his career high with 22 points and Rigsby made a couple of key steals late as Oregon pulled away.
Washington State came into the game as one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country, having averaged 11 made shots per game from beyond the arc. Given their reputation, the game figured to be one of Oregon being sure they had good defensive rotation onto the Cougars marksmen. Instead, Matt Court fans were treated to an inside game - Washington State went only 3 - 14 from the 3-point line and after being tied 20-20 at halftime, Oregon pulled away on “points in the paint” 52 - 40.
Dante’s return to the starting lineup was a surprise, as word was he had entered the NCAA’s Concussion Protocol after taking a knock on the head against Michigan State a week ago. A one-week recovery is unusual, but certainly possible if the original injury is very mild. In any case, Dante was medically cleared, ready to go, and certainly showed no ill-effects.
At first, neither team could get much going as the officiating crew was calling the game tight. Oregon took a 4 - 2 lead on 2 Dante baskets inside, sequences that would be repeated over and over on the night. Dante would pick up a couple of quick fouls, and Washington State took advantage, earning an 11 - 7 lead on two free throws at 12:43. Oregon has shown a tendency to “go big” so far this season, playing Dante (6’11”) and Kel’el Ware (7’0”) together. With Dante on the bench, Coach Dana Altman just reloaded on the idea, bringing in 6’9” Lok Wur to pair with Ware. Oregon continued to have success inside, not only with those two, but also having them set picks and screens allowing Oregon’s guards to drive to the basket. Rivaldo Soares was a particular beneficiary scoring twice inside to give Oregon a 23 - 21 lead at 5:27.
The teams continued to trade baskets inside and Dante returned with 5 minutes in the half, scoring with 4:11 left to put Oregon up 25 - 23. Neither team could put together any kind of sustained run, and even 5 points from Will Richardson, Jr over the last 90 seconds of the half couldn’t break the deadlock and at the half the score was knotted at 32.
Richardson led Oregon with 9 points, while Soares, Dante and Ware each had 6. Soares also added 4 rebounds and 3 assists. The Ducks improved on their shooting form, going 14 - 26 from the field overall due to all the inside action, while only hitting 1 of 5 from beyond the 3-point line. Washington State was only 2 - 8 from beyond the arc and both teams scored 20 points in the paint in the half.
Washington State opened the half with its first, but short-lived, surge, going ahead 37 - 34 on a 3-pointer at 18:25. Oregon quickly gained the lead as Quincy Guerrier scored inside and Dante had a rebound put-back. Washington State crept back into a 44 - 40 lead at 13:58 as Oregon missed a couple of 3s, went to sleep on the defensive glass and turned the ball over (at this point, WSU had an 11 - 3 advantage on points-off-turnovers). This would be the Cougars next-to-last lead, however, as Richardson scored 5 straight points and Oregon slapped on a full-court press and trap. Washington State broke the press once on their first possession facing it and scored a breakaway dunk to lead for the last time 46 - 45.
A Wur 3 and a Rigsby dunk opened a 5-point Duck lead at 11:33. A Rigsby steal and lob inside for a Dante dunk put Oregon up 55 - 48 and Oregon would stretch the lead to 10 on a Guerrier 3 at 6:47. Washington State would never really threaten after that and Oregon continued to pound the ball inside, scoring repeatedly on layups and dunks. Two late Oregon free throws closed out the Ducks 74 - 60 win.
For the game, Dante led Oregon with a career-high-tying 22 points. Richardson had his third good game in a row, scoring 17 points and dishing out 8 assists with 3 steals. Guerrier scored 12 and Wur scored 5 off the bench. Dante had 7 rebounds, and Rigsby grabbed 6 rebounds. The Ducks took better care of the ball, committing only 11 turnovers.
Oregon evened its season record at 4 - 4 and is now 1 - 0 in Pac-12 play. The Ducks next travel to Los Angeles to take on UCLA on Sunday afternoon at 2:00. Join ATQ for coverage of this game.