Oregon needed to make a statement during this three-game home stand. And now it is two down, one to go for the Ducks (17-8, 5-8) after a 78-71 win over the Washington Huskies (14-13, 6-8) on Wednesday night.
The win marked the 500th for Dana Altman – and 90th (most all time at UO) for Johnny Loyd — but it wouldn’t come easy. Like so many of the other Oregon games this season, this one had the look of a game that would come down to the final few possessions.
Early on, Huskies transfer center Perris Blackwell again seemed to be their most reliable offensive weapon. Time and again, just like the first meeting in Seattle, the bulky big man was able to find position inside and muscle his way to easy baskets.
Blackwell scored 10 of his team-leading 17 points in the first half. The Ducks tried using a combination of Mike Moser, Ben Carter, Elgin Cook, Waverly Austin and Richard Amardi on defense, in the first half alone, to slow down the big man.
Cook continues to grow and made some athletic moves on defense, and for rebounds and had a big dunk with just under 12 minutes in the first half. He would finish with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and no turnovers in 15 energetic minutes off the bench.
After the Huskies tied it at 24 with eight minutes to play, the two teams traded leads to close the period. The Huskies held a 39-36 advantage at the half, but neither team was able to assert itself with six ties and eight lead changes in the opening period.
Oregon rocketed out of the halftime locker room to a four-point lead as part of a 10-0 run, while the crowd inside Matthew Knight Arena clapped and danced to the familiar “shout” track that has inexplicably become an Oregon tradition.
But with still over 19 minutes remaining, there was still a lot of work to be done before the announced crowd of 6,792 could start the celebration.
The Ducks stretched their lead to six, but failed on chances to extend it even further on several consecutive possessions with just under 12 minutes to play. Using variations of their full-court press defense, though, Oregon was able to control the pace for most of the second half.
But the Huskies just would not go away, as Washington evened the score at 60 with nine minutes remaining. It seemed that just when Oregon seemed poised to pull away, Lorenzo Romar’s team fought and scrapped their way back in it.
The Ducks were full of energy and resolve themselves, diving for loose balls and fighting to contest shots and passing lanes, frequently forcing Washington to work their offense for nearly the entire shot clock, often settling for hurried attempts.
“We didn’t make any major adjustments, we just came out with more energy,” said Damyean Dotson when asked about the difference in the two halves.
A Johnathan Loyd turnover gave the home crowd a late scare and the Huskies another chance with the Ducks lead at only three, but Jason Calliste controlled a key rebound which led to a Moser basket-and-one with 1:30 left, giving the Ducks a more comfortable six-point lead. Moser led all scorers with 20 points and added 4 rebounds with 3 assists.
Altman said of Moser’s play, “When he plays like that, he helps everyone. It opens and creates things for Dot(son) and Joe (Young) when you’re able to get that kind of scoring from the four spot.”
It was over when Nigel Williams-Goss fouled Loyd with 5.6 seconds left, sending the senior to the line where he hit both shots to give Oregon the 78-71 victory.
After the game, Altman spoke of Loyd becoming the program’s all-time wins leader. ”I am very proud of him, being our first recruit. When we came in here our first year and had six or seven scholarship players, we were fortunate to get him. For four years he has been an energy-giver. He has come to every practice with a bounce in his step and has worked hard. Every company, every organization, every team needs someone like Johnny.”
The Washington State Cougars (9-16) are next up for the Ducks at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday night at Matthew Knight Arena. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 network.
Top photo by John Giustina