Joseph Young and Elgin Cook combined for 42 points and 10 rebounds, and Dwayne Benjamin added 15 points and eight rebounds to help the Oregon Ducks come out on top in a thrilling 73-70 victory over the Stanford Cardinal on Sunday afternoon.
The Ducks (22-8, 12-5 Pac-12) came into Sunday’s game on a hot streak, winning in seven out of their last eight games, which has put them in a position to contend for an NCAA Tournament bid. Stanford (18-10, 9-7 Pac-12), however, has had a much tougher time sustaining its consistency, but head coach Johnny Dawkins has helped the Cardinal overcome some of its shortcomings.
With the Pac-12’s regular season winding down to its final few games, both Oregon and Stanford understood the magnitude of the moment. Freshman Michael Humphrey got the scoring underway by giving the Cardinal an early 2-0 lead; however, the Ducks came storming down the court quickly and Cook answered Humphrey’s basket with a jump shot to tie the game. The first few minutes of the ball game were a good indication of the back-and-forth battle that would ensue as the matchup progressed.
Humphrey scored seven points in the first six minutes of the contest and it gave the Cardinal an early 12-6 lead. But Oregon countered with an 8-1 run, which was capped off by Young’s three-point basket and it ultimately helped the Ducks regain a 14-13 lead. The physical ball game resembled a brutal boxing match midway through the first half, but neither team managed to knock the other out. The Cardinal utilized an inside game led by big man Stefan Nastic to gain an early advantage. Oregon, on the other hand, was getting the majority of its looks from the perimeter, but the Ducks’ spacing on the offensive end allowed them to get off clean looks.
With about seven minutes remaining in the first half, Stanford pushed its lead up to five, and despite the fact that the Cardinal defense was switching well on Oregon’s pick and rolls, the Ducks were able to hit enough jump shots to counter Stanford’s tough coverage. Oregon’s ability to connect from the outside allowed the men in green and yellow to end the half on a thunderous 17-6 run. The Ducks walked into the locker room with momentum and 36-30 lead.
Young finished the first half with 10 points and Oregon’s defense also held Stanford to a measly 36% from the field. However, the Cardinal countered its tough shooting percentage by hitting 13 of its first 20 free-throw attempts.
The Ducks started the second half by taking a 38-30 lead, but Stanford’s mentality didn’t change coming out of the locker room. The Cardinal kept attacking the rim and both teams continued to exchange jabs. Despite only putting up five points during the first frame, Chasson Randle, the Pac-12’s second-leading scorer, got hot from the field and the senior took control of the game. Randle gave Stanford a 51-49 lead with 12 minutes left in regulation, but Cook answered Randle’s bucket with back-to-back jump shots to give Oregon a 53-51 advantage.
The Ducks’ inability to keep Stanford off the offensive glass allowed the Cardinal to keep the game close; however, Benjamin’s performance off the bench was paramount to the Ducks’ success in the second half. The athletic swingman scored 11 of his 15 points in final 10 minutes of the ball game. The Ducks found themselves trailing by three with three minutes left in the contest, but Benjamin’s three-point basket tied the game at 66-66. The junior reached into his bag of tricks one more time, though, and with 20 seconds left in regulation, Benjamin picked off a bad Stanford pass, which ultimately gave the Ducks the lead and the victory.
The Ducks have now won 10 of their last 14 games, and for the first time since 1976, Oregon has swept the bay area schools. Also, the triumph over Stanford guarantees the Ducks a first round bye at the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas later this month. With one game left on the regular season schedule, there’s no question that Oregon will continue to fight until the final buzzer sounds.
Oregon will travel to Corvallis to take on the Oregon State Beavers on Wednesday night.
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