EUGENE, OR. – The Oregon Ducks took on on the Washington State Cougars in a hard fought battle on Sunday night. The Ducks crushed the Cougars in their last meeting up in Washington, and it was clear from their initial play that the Cougars hadn’t forgotten about that beating.
Wazzu took an early lead as the Ducks were looking just to find their shooting touch. The Ducks simply couldn’t hit their shots, as no one could seem to really get anything going.
Luckily, Washington State didn’t take as big of an advantage as they could have to create separation, and the Ducks were able to keep themselves in the game. The Ducks moved the ball well, but had seven turnovers in the first half, while the Cougars had nine.
Both teams played pretty good defense creating those turnovers, making this one come down to who could get some scorers hot. Washington State’s D.J. Shelton got off to a great start, scoring 12 points and giving the Cougars every reason to believe that revenge was theirs. On the Ducks’ side, Mike Moser was the leading scorer with just six points.
Oregon was down 31-24 at the half, and something had to be done on the offensive side of the ball if the Ducks wanted to get back into this one. Oregon shot 38% from the field at the half, while the Cougars shot 43%, so it wasn’t like either team was completely dominant scoring the ball.
However, where the Cougars did dominate the Ducks was on the boards, as they had 18 rebounds to the Ducks eight, something we haven’t seen the Ducks struggle with since their first games of the season.
Coach Altman was forced to make a lineup change in this game, starting the recently hot-shooting point guard Jason Calliste for the suspended Damyean Dotson.
While Calliste had a very quiet start, the second half was when he, and the rest of the starters really started to get things going. The Ducks slowly crawled back into this one, and as soon as the 8-minute mark hit, the Ducks flew away with the win.
Mike Moser ended up with a team-leading 21 points and eight rebounds, as he not only was getting himself involved, but others as well, giving the team some confidence getting some buckets.
Joseph Young, who struggled shooting from the field, was able to draw some contact by driving the lane to get to the line for some free-throws, as he ended up with 18 points, while Calliste finished with a solid 12. The Ducks were able to get themselves back into this game by rebounding the ball much better, thanks to the efforts of Richard Amardi, Moser, and the small man with a big heart Johnathan Loyd.
Once they were able to limit the Cougs’ second-chance opportunities off the boards, the Ducks were soaring off to the other end of the court to score their buckets, as they brought their field-goal percentage to 48%, and played better second-half defense to help bring the Cougars’ shooting percentage down to 32.6%.
The Ducks played with more passion and heart in the second half, leading to their dominant 67-53 win. Oregon not only swept Washington State this year, but swept the Washington schools this week, giving the guys more and more confidence as the end of the season is nearing.
After all, it’s not about how you start, but it’s about how you finish, and if the Ducks can start to get into a little groove, they’ll surprise the people who forgot about their reign of dominance early in the season and prove that this team, in fact, isn’t the fluke we once thought they were.
Top photo by Steve Francis