EUGENE, Oré. — Three weeks after a battle that went to the wire, Saturday’s rematch between Oregon and Oregon State featured no drama as the Ducks trailed by double digits for the entire second half of a 78-56 win over the Beavers in front of 10,712 fans at Matthew Knight Arena.
These fans have seen Eric Williams Jr. capping off the first half with a three-quarter heave that put the OU men ahead 44-25 at halftime – during which the new OU football coach Dan Lanning addressed the crowd. The Beavers didn’t get closer than 15 in the second half, as the Ducks shot 55% from the floor and had a 40-37 advantage in rebounding to overcome 50% of shots from the free throw line (7 of 14 ).
The win put Oregon back on track after its six-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of Colorado on Tuesday. The Ducks get another chance against the Buffs on the road next week.
“It feels good to go into February knowing we have a good stride,” said Jacob Young, who led the Ducks with 17 points. “We’re ready to go back to the lab. We’re not done yet.”
How did it happen: Saturday was marketed as “International Night” in the Matthew Knight Arena, and the native flags of N’Faly Dante (Mali), Quincy Warrior (Canada) and Frank Kepnang (Cameroon) hanging from the bleachers at one end of the field. Whether it was coincidence or not, the post defense provided by this trio ended up being a huge story in the game – they combined for seven blocked shots as the Ducks outscored OSU in the paint 40-18 and kept the Beavers at 30.3% shooting.
Dante in particular looked full of energy early on, blocking two shots and sinking Oregon’s first two points of the game in transition. He later had two offensive rebounds to keep alive a possession that ended in a field goal for Young, two of Young’s seven points on a 12-0 run that gave the Ducks a 28 lead. -17. Young then hit a three that made it 37-22, and Williams scored on back-to-back possessions to end the half, including his three-point lift for a 44-25 lead.
“I like the energy – the crowd was awesome tonight, gave us more energy,” OU coach Dana Altman noted. “Eric hit the shot at half time which excited him a lot. I thought the energy level was good.”
Consecutive three shots from De’Vion Harmon at the start of the second half, the score was 51-32. Young completed a three-point game for a 74-52 lead, and the Ducks were able to get a few minutes for their bench late in the game without giving up that 22-point advantage at the end.
Who stood out: Young had 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, plus four rebounds and four assists. Will Richardson added 15 points on 3-of-5 3-pointers, and Harmon scored 14 with another three-point trio, while adding five rebounds and three assists.
But the story of the night was the big ones — Dante had nine points, 10 rebounds and three blocks plus two steals, and Kepnang and Guerrier each blocked two shots. Dante and Kepnang in particular took full advantage of their length, which had not always been the case earlier in their careers.
“It’s the X factor for the run of our season,” Young said after the Ducks capped a 6-1 January. “When we were on the trip to Los Angeles, they were protecting the rim with every possession, and we had the same tonight. If they keep protecting the rim like that, we have a good chance of winning every game that we let’s play.”
Ducks dominate the season on the Beavs. ??
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) January 30, 2022
What this means: After appearing to regain momentum with Saturday’s victory, the Ducks are turning their attention to a rematch in Colorado — where the OU men’s basketball program has never won.
“It’s bigger than us,” Williams said. “It’s for Altman and the program.”
Following: The Ducks play Colorado on Thursday (7 p.m., FS1).