After a close Valentine’s Day win over Washington State earlier this week, the Oregon Ducks traveled to Tempe this evening to face Arizona State. Sitting in a tie for 2nd in the Pac-12 with USC at 10 - 4, Oregon was looking to improve consistency and focus late in games. Virtually nothing went right for Oregon, particularly in the 2nd half, as the Ducks took a step backwards, losing to Arizona State 81 - 57.
In what was an ominous sign of things to come, Oregon came out flat and got off to a slow offensive start, missing their first 4 shots. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, hit a 3 and a layup to go up 5 - 0 at 17:50. Quincy Guerrier finally got the Ducks on the board, scoring inside and drawing a foul. After the free throw it was 5 - 3 ASU. Oregon tied the game at 8 on a Will Richardson drive and bucket. After numerous possessions by both teams ended in turnovers, missed shots and missed free throws, Oregon took its first lead at 10 - 9 on a jumper by Rivaldo Soares at 12:52. The teams traded 3-pointers with ASU’s Marreon Jackson serving as a one-man wrecking crew from beyond the 3-point arc. ASU’s tactic of purposefully bringing Jackson in off the bench very early in the half (18:38) paid huge dividends throughout the game. Oregon cut the ASU lead to 19 - 18 on a 3-point play, but 5 straight points for the Sun Devil opened up the lead to 6 at 24 - 18. Nate Bittle came off the bench for some quality minutes, scoring four straight points and getting Oregon back within 2, but ASU then ran off 6 straight points to lead 30 - 22 with 5:26 left to play in the half. The Ducks tried to claw their way back again but were badly hurt by a 1 - 13 shooting performance from beyond the 3-point arc in the half. Oregon closed to 32 - 28 on a Guerrier layup after a nice feed from N’Faly Dante, but ASU hit a jumper and two free throws sandwiched around two free throws by Eric Williams, Jr., to close out the half with a 36 - 30 lead.
For Oregon, Williams, Jr. had 8 points, Richardson 7 and Guerrier 5. Dante had 4 rebounds and Jacob Young added 2 assists. Oregon shot only 35.5 percent from the field and the aforementioned 1 - 13 from 3. ASU meanwhile shot 56.6 percent and 5 - 11 from 3. Jackson scored 16 points off the bench for ASU, including 4 - 5 from beyond the 3-point line.
Coming out of the locker room after halftime, it was really anyone’s game. ASU had feasted on Oregon’s poor shooting, allowing the Sun Devils to pack their interior defense, and then run out on Oregon misses. Oregon had not played well, but it wasn’t hard to believe that with some better shooting from the Ducks, a little better defense and some cooling off for the Sun Devils, Oregon could rally. That is not at all what happened. ASU came out on the floor ready to play the 2nd half, and Oregon was flat.
Oregon failed to score a basket over the first 2 minutes of the half while ASU hit its first 3 shots. Oregon went almost 5 full minutes during the last part of the first half and the first part of the second without scoring before Guerrier hit a 3 at 17:45 to make it 42 - 33 ASU. Oregon had 5 turnovers and 1 basket over the first four minutes of the half. After a timeout, the Ducks went into a full-court press, which ASU broke, scoring at the hoop to make it 48 - 33 at 15:31. ASU then hit a 3 and 2 free throws, while Franck Kepnang was fouled inside and made two free throws and Dante powered for a basket inside at 13:58. ASU then opened up a 19-point lead - 56 - 37 - on an offensive rebound and 3-pointer. Oregon made what would
be its final run to try and get back in the game. The Ducks cut the ASU lead back to 11 points at 56 - 45 with 11:12 left as they forced 4 straight ASU turnovers, and Richardson scored 5 points and Williams, Jr. added a three. ASU quickly regained the upper hand, running off 8 straight points to again lead by 19, 64 - 45 at 8:45. ASU earned its first 20-point lead at 68 - 48 on an alley-oop dunk at 7:15. ASU continued to stretch the lead as the game ran down, prompting Bill Walton to claim that Oregon “looks like they’ve given up” after an undefended ASU drive to the basket with 4 minutes left. ASU closed out the game on a high note, running out the last 25 seconds and winning 81 - 57.
Will Richardson led Oregon in the dispiriting contest with 12 points and Eric Williams, Jr added 11 off the bench. N’Faly Dante had 6 rebounds and Franck Kepnang 5. Richardson also added 3 assists. Oregon never got going offensively, and shot only 34.5 percent from the field and just 5 - 26 from the 3-point arc. All in all, a game best learned from and then quickly forgotten.
Oregon now faces a game at #3 Arizona, which has lost only one Pac-12 game, badly needing a win to have any hope of a possible NCAA tournament berth. Hang with adamh86 and ATQ for complete coverage of this clash.