It wasn’t going to be easy, but Oregon almost appeared to be making it harder than it needed to be in their rescheduled game against Washington State.
An extremely cold start from the Cougars (0 for their first 9 three-point attempts) had them fighting from behind in the first half, but Oregon still led by only six at halftime, 35-29. The lead seesawed in the second half until some high-energy plays by Franck Kepnang and some assertiveness by Will Richardson pushed Oregon in front down the final stretch.
After going ahead 62-53 on Richardson’s corner three with 1:00 to go, it looked as though the Ducks had this game wrapped up, but Washington State hit a quick three, stole the ball on the ensuing inbound, then hit another three to cut the lead to 62-59.
An intentional foul sent De’Vion Harmon to the line, where he missed the front end of a 1 and 1, giving the Cougars a chance to tie in the final seconds. Fortunately, both attempts were off the mark and the Ducks had survived another game they almost gave away, with 62-59 being the final.
ESPN, who was broadcasting the game, revealed that with the win they had Oregon in their last four in the NCAA Tournament. On Saturday I raved about how the Ducks didn’t look like a team that belonged there. I still have trepidations after what happened in the final minute of this game.
The positive takeaway, aside from the fact that Oregon won, is that they won a hard-nosed defensive battle with a very good defensive team. In fact, WSU had the lowest statistical opponent’s PPG allowed coming in.
The Ducks got great play from their big men Kepnang and N’Faly Dante, and that usually equals a recipe for success this season. Oregon’s guards caused problems on the perimeter defensively as well.
The Ducks have one more game on Thursday against Arizona State to sharpen their play before taking on No. 4 Arizona in Tucson on Saturday the 19th.