Last Sunday the Ducks and Beavers played against one another for an NCAA-record 336th time. Contrary to the typical talk about the Civil War, the electrifying exchanges about Sunday’s clash before and during were not so much about the game itself. Rather, the conversation was about all of the details that make this rivalry so intense.
As it should be.
This year’s setting for the Civil War didn’t take place in Eugene, and it didn’t take place in Corvallis. The prologue that defined this year’s Civil War game at Matt Knight Arena was set in motion long ago in Portland.
Two close friends, fantastic basketball players and Portland natives, were facing off against each other for the second-to-last time as Civil War foes. For Oregon guard Garrett Sim and Oregon State guard Kevin McShane, Sunday’s game was just another of many fierce competitive battles between the two friends.
Sim played at Sunset High School, where he studied extensively the art of clutch performance, while McShane started at the sports powerhouse that is Jesuit High School. Rivals in high school and college, for Sim and McShane, it was inevitable the two would become close friends, as the two families co-own a jazzercise studio in Portland.
If that seems like a strange connection for the two ballers, it wasn’t for them. Both players confirmed this past week that they both used to participate in jazzercise activities together, and that they were not ashamed of it one bit, hence sharing information with the media openly that may have had other players blushing and embarrassed.
In addition to the strange way that Sim and McShane became friends; Garrett Sim receiving a scholarship and playing at Oregon is a horse of a different color when it comes to the Sim family. Both parents graduated from Oregon State, dad playing football while mom was a cheerleader. Did Garrett not get the memo about the mandatory family Beaver lineage?
“Growing up, to be honest, I was pretty much an Oregon State fan. Definitely through the recruiting process, I probably would have been interested. They didn’t talk to me too much though. It is what it is,” said Sim about not getting an offer, or a decent look for that matter, from Oregon State during his recruiting process.
“I think that just makes me want to beat them even more. It’s ironic I ended up here (at Oregon),” said Sim of becoming a Duck amidst a die-hard Beaver family. Yes Garrett, it is a bit ironic here in your best season as a Duck, that you were just shrugged off by then head coach of the Beavers Jay John.
Sim has excelled in all four years at Oregon, but has certainly peaked this year, his senior campaign. While Sim is shining as a clutch performer that the Beavers didn’t want, where is Jay John now?
Answer: No longer in a division I head coaching role.
Would that have been different if John would have successfully pursued Sim? I guess we’ll never know.
Kevin McShane’s story is a bit different. He too grew up in a Beaver household, but was taught that there is no other university in Oregon other than OSU. For the McShane family, Kevin said in OSU’s presser, there were a couple important rules in the house. “Don’t steal, wash your hands, make your bed, the Ducks suck.”
However, bragging rights and the chance to be the hometown hero wasn’t the only story for Sunday’s Civil War. The other important Civil War cliffhanger?
E.J. Singler’s hair. Yeah, his actual hair.
In Tuesday’s Civil War press conference it came up that E.J. Singler almost cut off his distinguishing blonde locks earlier in the season. Coach Dana Altman even got in on the hair talk and revealed that Singler’s grandparents hate his long hair and wish he’d cut it.
Singler said that after the infamous loss to Cal earlier this season, he was prepared to cut his hair. After the win at Arizona State, he changed his mind.
Then came the Arizona game.
During the Civil War Q&A, Singler revealed that after his game-winning performance as he was walking off Lute and Bobbi Olson Court, the Arizona fans “were saying some pretty nasty things” about Singler’s hair that wounded his self-esteem.
Seeing how down his teammate was after the hurtful comments, Sim approached Singler and said six simple words that changed Singler’s mind about chopping the identifiable flowing locks, getting so long that during games he has to wear a hairband to keep it out of his eyes.
“You definitely can’t cut it now”. And Singler listened to his good friend and teammate, thus the Ducks are led by a player with a head that could easily model for shampoo ads around campus.
Then Singler and Sim revealed that since the Civil War is such a big deal; that if the Ducks lost the game, Singler would cut his dreamy blonde locks……maybe. Just how much, if any, would be cut is yet to be revealed.
For Singler it would be going full circle, as he played with a shaved head for much of the last two seasons, making his brother Kyle look like the rebellious one in the Singler household, a national star at Duke University now playing for Real Madrid despite being drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the 2nd round of last year’s NBA draft.
When Oregon and Duke met November 27th, 2010 at the Rose Garden to showcase the Singler family, it was older brother Kyle with the flowing hair dropping 30 points on Oregon while clean shaven E.J. could only muster two points. Perhaps E.J. decided to follow his brother and go beyond Kyle with his Samson-esque growth in the time since.
Or perhaps Steve Prefontaine is a more apt comparison, as Singler this year has emerged as the most reliably dominant player for Oregon, averaging double figured in nearly every game before breaking out for a career high 26 points against UCLA on January 21st, kicking it up an extra notch down the final stretch run of the season the way Pre and his flowing hair tore up the Hayward Track 40 years ago.
Sorry E.J., but Pre rocked the long hair long before you did…
Which brings us to the Civil War game played last Sunday. The performance on display by both squads described in one word; emotional. In the opening minutes of the game the question of the afternoon became obvious; which team would handle their emotion properly, and use it as fuel to win the game?
After the first few minutes of the second half, the answer was clearly Oregon State.
Coach Craig Robinson said early in the week that the Civil War “is the most important game of the season.” The Beavers certainly treated it that way in their 76-71 second half comeback win over the Ducks last Sunday.
Dana Altman put it best while meeting with the media when he said “they’re (OSU) better than their record shows.” And with the five point win on Sunday, and having three players in the top 15 in scoring in the Pac-12, I’d say Altman’s assessment was correct. Leading into the game Oregon had tied for first place in the Pac-12 Conference, afterwards Oregon was left still a half game out, but for many the feeling was that this young team while promising is not quite yet ready for the big show, though time still remains to correct it.
During the week, E.J. Singler was asked about Craig Robinson’s distinctive 1-3-1 zone defense. Singler described it in three simple words; “It’s a shock.” Little did E.J. know, it would indeed be a shock, just not in the way he expected it to be.
The Ducks prepared an offensive scheme during the week-long break between the UCLA win and Civil War game that was designed to destroy the 1-3-1 zone. However, Robinson pulled a fast one on Oregon and ran a man-to-man defense instead, which appeared to confuse the Ducks ruining their offensive game plan.
However, the Ducks did not need a game plan on Sunday as much as they needed two other ingredients to beat the Oregon State Beavers.
First, Oregon needed super glue. The Ducks surrendered 23 turnovers against the Beavers, the biggest factor for their second half comeback for the win.
“The second half was not one of our better efforts. Our turnovers is what disappointed me the most, we had some awful turnovers” said Altman. It wasn’t just turnovers that hurt mighty Oregon though.
Second, poor shot selection attributed to the Ducks suffering as well, as the Ducks were exposed in being in desperate need for an accurate, long range arm. Too bad that Joey Harrington could only sit courtside in street clothes; and, oh yeah, he played football.
The Ducks attempted 30 total three point shots, hitting only 9-30. There’s no doubt the added emotion of playing the hated Beavers attributed to the undisciplined play that resulted in so many long range shots and poor ball security. Oregon State on the other hand played with better discipline, taking more strategic threes and going 7-17 from behind the arc, helping to surge the second half comeback for the Beavers.
Late in the second half, Ahmad Starks drained a 3-pointer to give OSU their first lead, 46-45. After a Dana Altman timeout, the Ducks tried to fight fire with fire by playing Oregon State’s own game of deception, switching from zone (which they had used all game) to the full court press with 11:33 left.
The switch helped Oregon a bit, as OSU had surged to a big lead before the press helped Oregon make a comeback bringing the score within 74-70 when Singler was fouled while cutting to the hoop, sending E.J. to the line with Oregon in the bonus. However, the most clutch free throw shooter on the team strangely missed the first attempt, and converted the second, proving to be the final blow as the Beavers walked away with the 76-71 victory.
However, the bitter loss to the hated Beavers wasn’t all bad. The Ducks registered a team-high 10 blocked shots in the loss, seven of those coming in the first half alone. The Tall Fir himself, Tony Woods, led the team with four.
As for the two friends, and fierce competitors that jazzercised their way to college basketball success; Garrett Sim finished the game with five points and eight rebounds in the loss, while Kevin McShane had no points in only four minutes of playing time.
I guess we know who took the jazzercise class more seriously.