EUGENE, OREG.- The 6-5 UC Irvine Anteaters came into Eugene with one of the tallest, if not the tallest, player in college basketball at 7’6” in Mamadou Ndiaye. Oregon has been struggling on the boards in their previous games, thus UCI felt strong and mighty with their lethal weapon in the paint. UC Irvine forgot that a team can’t simply win off of the size of the player, but also off of the size of their heart, and Oregon easily had more heart than the Anteaters in this game that was basically over in the first half.
The Ducks came in with a man-to-man, as did Irvine. The Anteaters started the game off with great help defense that prevented the Ducks from scoring for the first minute, and then . . . the Ducks EXPLODED! It became an incredibly exciting up and down, fast-paced game between the two teams that only helped Oregon’s chances of winning. The Ducks took a quick 18-10 lead with 11:44 left, which led to a quick timeout by the Anteaters. After the timeout, the Ducks were forced to slow down the offense a bit, but were still able to take advantage of UC Irvine with incredible ball movement that led to open baskets.
By the half, the score was 46-29 Ducks, as the Anteater’s biggest weapon in their big man simply couldn’t handle the speed at which the Ducks were playing. The Ducks outrebounded UCI, 17-16, the first time in a while that the Ducks were leading a game in rebounds at the half. Oregon shot a whopping 53% from the field (70% from 3), while Irvine shot a below average 39% from the field (33% from 3). What led to Oregon’s huge lead at the half was their six steals off of Irvine’s nine turnovers. With Irvine’s sloppy play, Oregon was able to really push the ball down the court and blow these Anteaters out of the water early.
With a very slow second half, mostly due to too many whistles being blown, Oregon was still able to stop the Anteaters from scoring and finish the game with the 91-63 win. The biggest story from this one was having guard Dominic Artis and forward Ben Carter back in the lineup after their nine-game suspensions. The two had very strong games in their return, which can only bolster the depth needed over a long season. The high man in this one was Joseph Young with 18 points on 70% shooting. The team was able to move the ball around with a beautiful 17 assists, which led to four Oregon players scoring in double digits.
The keys to this game were how well the Ducks would be able to push the ball down the court and get out into the open, something they struggled with in their match up against Illinois, and how well they would do rebounding the ball against such a huge lineup. They dominated in both categories, as they outrebounded the opposing team, 39-36, and shot 48% from the field, but 63% from three. The numbers are a great sign of improvement for this 10-0 team, and we can only continue to watch these young men grow into their respective roles, game by game.