The Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team kicked off the 2015 Pac-12 season with a 71-59 victory over the Oregon State Beavers at Matthew Knight Arena on Saturday night.
The long-time basketball rivalry between the Ducks and the Beavers, which traces its origins back to 1903, is one of the most storied match-ups in college basketball. Saturday night marked the 343rd time that these two programs have met, which is the most played matchup in college hoops history, and even after all these years, you can still smell the intensity in the air.
Oregon got off to a quick start, which was propelled by its leading scorer Joseph Young. The senior guard initiated the scoring by hitting his first two shots and the Ducks started the game on a 10-0 run, but it was their hard-nosed defense that allowed them to build an early lead. The Ducks’ early defensive success was due in large part to their ability to switch on the pick and roll and deny the passing lanes. Oregon’s stifling defense forced Oregon State to miss its first nine shots.
The Beavers’ abysmal shooting didn’t completely leave them behind, however. Free throws enabled Oregon State to keep the game close, and the Beavers’ physical defense, which gives up the fewest points in the Pac-12 Conference (56.5), ultimately found its rhythm, and the Beavers ended the half on 14-6 run.
The Ducks possessed a two-point lead coming out of half time (29-27), but they quickly increased their lead when it became clear that the scheduled basketball game would turn into the Joe Young show. The Pac-12’s leading scorer displayed his full arsenal and he went on to score 14 second half points. Young’s theatrics were too much for Oregon State’s defense to handle and the Beavers found themselves trailing the Ducks by as much as 17. Elgin Cook also provided a scoring punch as he added 18 points, and big man Jordan Bell was all over the place, as well. The freshman finished with eight points, nine rebounds and five blocks.
The Beavers constantly found ways to keep the game close. Their zone defense made it difficult for the Ducks to score on a few occasions, but their lack of offensive firepower and their inability to contain Young disallowed them from having a real shot.
Oregon’s head coach Dana Altman was pleased with the Ducks’ performance, but he believes that his young team can be more consistent.
“Ten or twelve offensive and defensive possessions I thought were really good, and then we had probably the same amount on the other end of the spectrum,” Altman explained after the game. “If we can clean those up, we have a chance to be a heck of a ball club.”
The Ducks’ collective effort enabled them to come out victorious over their rival from Corvallis, but the undisputed star of the night was the high scoring guard out of Houston, Texas. Young finished the game with 27 points and three rebounds, and he also shot 66% from the field. Young understands that this team will have its growing pains, but he also believes that he and his teammates can get through it together.
“The game is about runs, and when Oregon State started to get their run, we stayed together,” Young said after the game. “We weren’t doing that earlier in the season.”
The Ducks will look to keep their six game winning streak alive as they host the Arizona Wildcats at Mathew Night Arena next Thursday night.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline