Oregon Basketball Correspondent Jason Selby reporting for FishDuck.com from the Matt Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon.
The stage was set. The Ole Miss rebels were in town for what many people considered to be the Ducks’ toughest home test to date. With Dwayne Benjamin firmly back in the starting lineup and a decently filled Matthew Knight Arena, the Ducks seemed confident and so did the crowd. Unfortunately, a second half rally came up short and the Ducks fell, 78-73.
Right off the bat the Ducks took the early lead, thanks to a Dwayne Benjamin three pointer. Ole Miss point guard Stefan Moody followed with a three pointer for the Rebels. The first few minutes of the game were a back and forth battle, with both squads trading shot for shot. The Ducks seemed to be right there in it against a heavily favored Rebels team that was motivated to win this game after its recent loss to an undefeated TCU Horned Frogs team.
The first half featured a great show of effort from freshman star-to-be Dillon Brooks. Halfway through the first half when the rest of his team seemed sloppy and out of sorts, Brooks kept it going with intense effort and pace. To accompany Brooks and his 11 points in the first half, Joseph Young contributed 12 of his own. Besides Brooks and Young, the Ducks seemed to be out of rhythm, as they slowly began to lose pace with the Rebels.
Led by Moody’s speed and shooting, the Rebels took over the game in the final minutes of the first half. Seemingly in on every play, Spaniard Sebastian Saiz contributed 8 points and 4 rebounds for Ole Miss. The Rebels did a nice job of holding the Ducks to 37.1% from the field and a measly 26.7% from three-point land while shooting an unbelievable 71.4% from distance in the first half.
Oregon coach Dana Altman’s big criticism of his team is its inability to play consistently throughout the course of a game, and with a team like the Ole Miss Rebels, playing inconsistent never bodes well. Going into the half, Ole Miss had the advantage at 47-33.
The second half started out with a very cohesive Rebels team, and a not-so-cohesive Ducks team. The Rebels’ Stefan Moody had hit a floating three pointer as the clock expired in the first half, and that seemed to have taken the wind right out of the Ducks’ sails as they started play in the second half.
For the first twelve minutes the Ducks had issues moving the ball. Their lack of size down low, and persistent struggles from beyond the three-point line showed, and the Ducks seemed outmatched. But with eight minutes remaining, the Ducks started playing with energy and a major comeback looked like it could be in the works. But every time the Ducks started closing, the Rebels answered with a timely shot or defensive stop. The Rebels’ zone defense seemed to stun the Ducks, even when they seemed to have a glimmer of hope at a comeback. It was too little too late, and the lack of teamwork and unity showed.
Once again, the shining star for Oregon in this game was Dillon Brooks, who finished with 21 points. His fiery attitude and aggressiveness on both sides of the ball resulted in a great game for the youngster. Elgin Cook quietly added 15 points, while freshman Ahmaad Rorie added 10 more. Solid performances from a few and absences from others resulted in a tough loss. Final score: Ole Miss 79, Oregon 73.
When asked postgame about the overall effort of the team, Dana Altman said, “We just need to get better in every aspect. We lacked ball movement and consistency, and that is not a recipe for winning ball games.”
The Ducks have a few days off to practice and get better before heading to Chicago for a December 13th pairing with the Fighting Illini of Illinois.
Top Photo by Donald Alarie