After a foot-dragging first half featuring very little offense from either team, Oregon spent the first ten minutes of the second half building an 11-point lead, but then had to withstand a furious Sun Devil rally – and their own error-filled play – to hold on for a 75 – 70 victory over Arizona State in Tempe. The Ducks showed flashes in the second half of the kind of play that has made them an exciting team at times, a team that could generate a win over a quality opponent. They also showed flashes of the kind of mistakes that have been a constant companion this season, mistakes that have led to losses against some seemingly weaker opponents.
The first half was something of a slog for both squads. Oregon was only 12 – 31 (38.7%) from the field overall and just 2 – 8 (25%) from beyond the 3-point arc. Oregon scored only 27 points in the first half.
ASU was only marginally better but did shoot 4 – 10 from 3-point distance and led 30 – 27 at the horn. The teams combined for only 6 free throws over the first 20 minutes – three of which were the result of technical fouls – in one of the cleanest halves of the season. Oregon showed balanced, if low, scoring during the half with Will Richardson, Jr leading with 6 points and Keeshawn Barthelemy scoring 5 which included a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer.
Four other Ducks scored 4 points each and Kel’el Ware came off the Oregon bench to lead the team in rebounds with 5 while N’Faly Dante and Nate Bittle had 3 each. Oregon committed 9 turnovers in the half which helped keep their scoring down.
Oregon came out of the locker room with a different offensive approach and good energy on defense. The Ducks outscored ASU 27 – 13 over the first 11 minutes by working the ball inside to Dante. The big man responded with layups, short jumpers and some foul shots as the Sun Devils struggled to contain him. Dante’s power inside picked up foul after foul on Warren Washington, ASU’s tallest starter who had the unenviable task of trying to guard him under the Oregon basket. Ultimately Washington would do some damage late in the game, scoring a couple of dunks but fouling out with under a minute to play.
Oregon maintained a 9-point lead with 5:30 to play on a Quincy Guerrier three, but the Ducks immediately gave up a 3-pointer to ASU. A minute later, Guerrier would go 1 – 2 from the free throw line to push the lead to 7 again. The Ducks then went on a stretch of minutes where they couldn’t get out of their own way. Helped along by a resurgence of the Sun Devil defense, the Ducks made 3 straight turnovers while ASU scored 5 straight points to close to 64 – 62 with 4:17 to play. But ASU made the same defensive error Oregon had earlier, leaving Richardson open for a 3-pointer that gave the Ducks a small amount of breathing space.
ASU would close to just one point at 67 – 66 on a pair of free throws and after the teams traded baskets, it was still anyone’s game at 71 – 70 with 1:18 left on Washington’s second late dunk. The Sun Devils couldn’t take advantage of an Oregon turnover and when ASU fouled, the Ducks went 4 – 6 from the charity stripe in the final minute to close out the game.
Oregon’s offensive strategy switch showed results, as Dante led Oregon with 18 points – 14 in the second half. Barthelemy scored 15, including 3 – 3 from beyond the arc, and Richardson had 14. Guerrier, Ware and Rivaldo Soares came off the Oregon bench to score 16 points total along with 9 rebounds and 2 steals. Bittle had 6 rebounds and Dante 5. Barthelemy also dished out a team-leading 5 assists and had 3 steals. Oregon committed 17 turnovers and had 8 steals.
The Ducks shooting improved considerably in the second half and they ended up 25 – 53 (47.2%) from the field overall and 7 – 16 (43.8%) from 3-point distance. After taking only 2 free throws in the first half, Oregon went 17 – 24 in the second half. The Ducks could have closed the game out earlier with better free throw shooting.
The Ducks (14-10 overall, 8-5 Pac-12), now tied for 4th in the Conference with Utah, come home for games against Pac-12 third place USC and Conference-leading UCLA on Thursday and Saturday.