If there’s been a saving grace for Oregon Men’s basketball this season, it has been the safety of Matthew Knight Arena.
On Thursday the depleted Ducks, down to just seven scholarship players, held off a rally by visiting Kent State to secure an 84-70 win that put them at 8-3 heading into Pac-12 play and kept them undefeated in the Emerald Valley.
Down Jesse Zarzuela (out for the season), Keeshawn Barthelemy and Nate Bittle (out indefinitely), and Mookie Cook and N’Faly Dante (expected back in January), the Ducks leaned on the experience of Jermaine Couisnard and they’re young players to carry the load.
Couisnard led the Ducks with 27 points. Kario Oquendo, who has been up and down this season, was up again with 20 points and Jackson Shelstad, who’s playing brilliantly as a freshman, tallied 15.
Oregon jumped ahead by as many as 18 points, but early in the second half Kent State suddenly went white hot from the perimeter, draining three after three to cut Oregon’s lead down to single digits, even getting as close as four.
The Ducks, however, stayed poised and in command, using their size advantage to dominate the paint by attacking the basket. The lead went back up to 18 and they won comfortably by 14.
The shooting woes that had been so prevalent in the loss against Syracuse, began to resolve themselves slightly, although there is still a concern. Oregon shot 47 percent from the floor but a mere 24 percent from outside.
The Ducks will have time to rest until next Thursday, when they welcome USC to Eugene to begin their final slate in the Pac-12.