OXFORD, Miss.- Oregon came into Ole Miss on Sunday afternoon with an incredible record of 7-0 (first time since their 2006-07 season) and were looking to capture another win, making them one of only two teams in the PAC-12 still undefeated. But, with this being the Ducks’ first matchup in history against the Rebels, both teams knew this one would come down to who wanted it more. With the 6.5 inch blizzard that attacked Eugene, 36 degrees and a little rain sounded like a paradise vacation for the red hot Ducks in Oxford. Unfortunately, with the “vacation-like” weather Oregon was “enjoying,” also came a vacation-like mindset to start off the game.
With very little known about Ole Miss as a unit, the Ducks were only aware of their explosive scorer Marshall Henderson, who led Ole Miss seemingly by himself to the NCAA tournament last year. Although he hasn’t been as explosive this year, the Ducks had their eyes on him in their periphery.
Both teams started off the game shooting fairly poor and not executing as well as they may have hoped. They both consistently changed from man-to-man, to a zone defense throughout the whole game, trying to confuse the opposing offense on almost every possession. Oregon’s zone defense proved to make Ole Miss’ offensive plan ( have Marshall shoot ridiculously difficult shots) hard to execute, while the Rebels’ zone combination of man-to-man and zone threw the Ducks off a bit leading to some turnovers. At the beginning, the Ducks were struggling to find their identity, as they have been throughout the season with all of their new pieces. There wasn’t one person that truly dominated this game at halftime for either team, which only led us to believe that at some point SOMEONE had to pick up the slack in the second half.
At the end of the first half, the Ducks were down, 38-37, as Oregon shot 49% to Ole Miss’ 45%, but at the same time, Oregon shot 33% from three going 3-9, while the Rebels shot 41% on 5-12. Plus, both teams shot an atrocious 50% from the line. The Ducks continued to struggle in the areas that they hoped to improve in by the time their conference games came around, as their free-throw shooting wasn’t close to being up to par, and they were again outrebounded at the half, 20-16, allowing Ole Miss seven offensive rebounds to their four. If Oregon wants to make a statement that they’re to be taken serious, they will have to build a presence in the paint that will be actually feared across the nation. They might not have incredible size inside, but they do have athletes with heart that can make up for it, and will need to start boxing out better under the basket, not allowing second chance points.
With all of that said, the Ducks played an incredible second half, proving they DO have the ability to succeed in the previously stated areas of weakness. Coach Dana Altman decided to go with a fairly small lineup regardless of the fact that they were getting outrebounded, because he believes in his players’ abilities and continued hard work. The Ducks started off the second half continuing to go back and forth against Ole Miss with both running and gunning. Thankfully, run and gun is what Oregon is all about, and this style of play favored our Mighty Ducks, as they began to build more and more confidence in the hostile environment.
To be fair, this was the Ducks’ biggest test of the year by far, and they played the most beautiful basketball I’ve seen them play all year in the second half. Mike Moser and Elgin Cook looked like Lamarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum in a beautiful offensive display, led by Johnathan “Damian Lillard” Loyd. It really was like watching the Portland Trailblazers in college form. Moser began by extending his range on two pick-and-pops to start off his offensive tear, while Cook was swiftly driving to the basket and finishing with the touch, all led by Loyd’s incredible 15 assists!
On the other side of the floor was the erratic shooter Marshall Anderson picking up the load for the Rebels, as he finished the game with a career-high 39 points. As time began to wind down in the second half the Ducks had a three-point lead with just less than ten seconds remaining. The Rebel’s Jarvis Summers, who had been struggling the whole game, caught the ball and took matters into his own hands by popping the game-tying 3 with .8 seconds left. Oregon foolishly threw the ball away giving Ole Miss one last chance at winning the game before overtime and put the ball in Marshall Anderson’s hands as he shot the fade-away three that looked oh-so-good, but luckily was slightly off.
Perhaps this was a late wakeup call for the Ducks, but they absolutely destroyed Ole Miss in overtime. They were led by none other than Joseph Young who was able to score 19 points in the game by shooting 4-5 from three-point range. As Young and Loyd proved to be a dynamic duo in overtime, the Ducks came out victorious with a staggering win, 115-105.
The Ducks had six players score in double digits, as the player of the game had to be Loyd with his 23 points and 15 assists, followed by Moser’s 24 points and 10 rebounds. With Coach Atlman, he never settled on one line-up during the game, he still was able to utilize his bench to the maximum of their abilities as Cook, Amardi and Calliste were all huge factors in Sunday’s win. Oregon finished the game shooting an incredible 59% total, and and unheard of 50% from three, while coming up with a solid 80% from the line. There’s no doubt that the second half of this game was a shootout, but Oregon simply had the hotter hand.
The Ducks are now 8-0, and will head back to play in the snow with their heads high after such an impressive win.
Make sure to tune in on December 14th on ESPN2 as Oregon faces Illinois at 6pm Pacific time.