The Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team traveled to Pullman and came up short in a 108-99 overtime loss to the Washington State Cougars at the Beasley Coliseum.
Thursday night’s showdown was as much of a reunion as it was a basketball game. Washington State’s Ernie Kent was a fixture at McArthur Court from 1997 to 2010. The former Duck is the winningest basketball coach in the program’s history; Kent finished his coaching career at Oregon with 235 wins and he also led the Ducks to two elite eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Both teams got off to a scorching start and what was supposed to be a basketball game felt more like a track meet. The Cougars’ ball movement and exceptional floor spacing allowed them to create many open shots; Washington State connected on seven of its first 8 field goal attempts, and both Ike Iroegbu and big man Josh Hawkinson combined for 23 early points. On the flip side, the Ducks couldn’t miss anything either. Oregon hit 5 of its first 10 shots, and after getting off to a slow start in the previous two games, the Ducks’ high scoring guard Joseph Young scored eight early points to keep the Ducks within striking distance.
Considering how well both the Ducks and the Cougars were shooting the ball in the first half, they should have stayed on the court during halftime to stay warm. The first 20 minutes of the game saw a total of 109 points scored between both teams; it was the highest scoring first half that the Pac-12 Conference had seen this season. Oregon finished the first half with a well-balanced attack, as five of its players scored at least seven points or more. The Cougars’ scoring attack was tremendous, as well. They ended the first frame with three players scoring in double figures.
The Cougars started the second half with a 57-52 lead, but it quickly vanished as the highflying Ducks went on a 9-0 run to regain the lead. Oregon couldn’t sustain its quick start to the half, however, as the Cougars kept working the ball inside. Hawkinson’s physical presence in the mid-post created open opportunities for his teammates, but his assertiveness was also benefitting his team, as well. The sophomore constantly found himself in the paint and the Ducks’ lack of size prevented them from impeding Hawkinson’s dominance.
While the first half of the game felt like a track meet, the second half felt more like a championship boxing match. The teams threw jabs at each other, but the opposition constantly found ways strike back. With 39 seconds left in the game the Ducks trailed 94-92, but their leading scorer was there to save the day. Ironically, it wasn’t Young’s scoring that helped the Ducks; it was his passing. The redshirt senior drove to the paint and found Elgin Cook for a layup to tie the game.
At the end of regulation, the game was tied 94-94. While the first 40 minutes of the game were close, the final five minutes were a whole different story. Oregon’s offense couldn’t buy a basket during the overtime period, scoring only 5 points. The Cougars, however, kept attacking the basket and Washington State produced 14 points during the final frame. Washington State finished with four players scoring in double figures, while three of them scored at least 20 points. The Cougars’ courageous effort and offensive exploits, along with Hawkinson’s 26 point performance, was too much for Oregon to handle.
The Ducks hope to get back to their winning ways when they travel to Seattle to face the Washington Huskies this Sunday night.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove