Final Score: Oregon 74 Oregon St. 73
The Civil War might mean more to Oregon senior Garrett Sim on more levels than anyone else who was in the crowd of 9,604 in sold out Gill Coliseum Sunday afternoon, and he made the most of it. Having parents with a history with Oregon St. athletics always makes Sim the subject of a dis-proportionate amount of attention whenever Civil War battles are the subject of the day. And a dust-up in front of the Beaver bench in the first half that resulted in a technical on Sim only raised the decibel level further for the native Oregonian. But Sim more than measured up to the moment, making 10 of 14 points, including 4 of 7 on 3 pointers, which gave him a game and season high 25 points. Sim had 9 of Oregon's first 16 points.
The Ducks needed every one of them in order to pull out the exciting one point win over the Beavers. Only occasionally did either team open any appreciable margin, and when one did (usually Oregon), it didn't last. But the bottom line was Oregon made a few tough shots that were well defended, and earned the win in a game that did nothing to dampen anyone's appetite for Civil War basketball, including notable Beaver alums Gary Payton, Mark Radford, and Ray Blume, who were in attendance.
The Ducks opened the largest lead of the game, 11 points, with 3:43 left, after a turnover by the Beavers' Challe Barton led to an intentional foul on Sim, which produced a free throw, and then a basket by Devoe Joseph, for a 71-60 lead. Oregon St.'s Eric Moreland answered with a 3 pointer, and after Joseph missed his try at a 3, Moreland drew a foul and sank both free throws. It started an 11-2 run that made it a 2 point game on Devon Collier's putback basket with 40 seconds left.
Oregon worked down the clock, but Oregon St.'s defense forced the Ducks to settle for an E.J. Singler 3 pointer that missed with 13 seconds left. However, Oregon's Olu Ashaolu got the rebound, and got fouled. Ashaolu made only the first of two free throws, keeping it a 1 possession game.
Oregon St. had Barton take the 3 pointer that would have forced overtime, but the shot was well off line. Jared Cunningham jammed in the putback, but with no time outs left, and only 2 seconds remaining, Oregon St. never got a chance to do anything else, and Oregon had a season split of the Civil War.
"It worked out exactly how we wanted it to," Oregon St. coach Craig Robinson said. "I figured let's use the last timeout to try and make them miss the foul shot. By the way, that kid (Ashaolu) is like a 50 percent foul shooter, and it seemed like he made every single one of them except that last one."
We got them to miss and had a shot at it. We called the play in the huddle. The way we saw it was that if he made it we were going to go for a quick two and have to foul again because we would be down by four. If he missed it then we were going for a three."
"It worked out exactly how we wanted and had a wide-open look. Challe Barton ended up being the guy open. Out of all the guys who were out there, any of the four who we had, other than Joe Burton, could have taken that three. It worked out almost exactly how we wanted because we knew they would overplay our best shooters, and Challe had a nice little look at it and it just didn't go down."
That Collier was able to make that putback, or play any of the 15 second half minutes he did, was remarkable, after what happened just past the midway mark of the first half. Collier went down off balance in a collision of bodies, dislocating his left knee cap in the process.
"My bone came out, and I put it back in,'' said Collier. "I dislocated it, and I put it back together.''
Collier, below, set out the rest of the first half, but was in the starting lineup after halftime, and finished with 11 rebounds, 7 points, 2 assists, and 2 blocked shots.
"That was big for us," Robinson added. "It's starting to show a little bit of leadership on this team. He could have easily decided that `ah, my knee's sore, let me not go back in.' But he wanted to be in that fight. It was a lift for us."
Another challenge for Oregon St. was to come shortly, as Angus Brandt picked up 2 fouls in 10 seconds, giving him his 3rd foul with just over 5 minutes left in the first half. Minus 2 front court starters, and with Cunningham having to play with caution after picking up his second personal only 7 minutes into the game, Robinson was forced deep into his bench, and into some primary and secondary defensive assignments other than would normally be the case. And Sim accumulating a dozen points before halftime.
Oregon opened a 6 point lead, the largest to that point, 2:15 before the break, on a pair of Ashalou free throws, but Oregon St. responded with a 7-0 run, starting with one of Ahmad Starks' 4 3 pointers in the game, followed by a putback by Kevin McShane, and then a pair of free throws by Roberto Nelson 3 seconds before halftime.
But Oregon still managed to take the lead at the break, when Oregon St. allowed a 3/4 length of the floor pass, and Ashalou sank a fall away jumper at the buzzer.
"We ran that when we scrimmaged this week," Oregon coach Dana Altman noted.
Brandt's 3 pointer pushed Oregon St. to their largest lead of the game 4 1/2 minutes into the second half, but Singler answered with his own 3 pointer, and then, after a turnover, Brandt picked up his 4th foul, below, and Singler first tied the game for the 11th and last time, at 46 apiece, and then put Oregon ahead for good with the second free throw.
Brandt wouldn't foul out until there was only 1:44 left, in the midst of the Beavers' final rally, and finished with 16 points, but was held to only 25 minutes of play.
Starks countered a Sim 3 pointer with one of his own, but eventually a 14-5 Oregon run opened a 10 point lead, the largest to that point in the game, going up 66-56 with less than 6 minutes left on a Joseph 3 pointer.
Collier and Cunningham answered with consecutive baskets, but Joseph wrapped baskets around a Sim free throw to open the 11 point advantage they held before the final Oregon St. rally.
Starks, above sinking a 3 pointer, led Oregon St. with 18 points, and shot 70% from the field, including making 4 of 5 from 3 point range, and Cunningham finished with 13 points.
Both Joseph, above, and Ashalou aided Sim with 16 points each, and Singler, below, scoring against Joe Burton, added 13. The Ducks' sharpshooting trio of Sim, Singler, and Joseph accounted for 54 of Oregon's 74 points.
Defense was a factor for both teams, as Oregon St. not only shut down Oregon center Tony Woods totally, they forced the Ducks into timeouts to avoid turnovers when they couldn't get the ball inbounded 4 times, including forcing consecutive timeouts with 2:46 left, in the midst of the late game Beaver rally. Oregon St. also held Oregon to just 2 made shots from the field for an 8 minute stretch in the first half.
Oregon held Cunningham well below average, kept Moreland just under double figures, and limited Oregon St. to 46% shooting in both halves and therefore overall.
And, as Robinson noted, contested other better options like Starks and Cunningham, leaving the game to swing on a shot by Barton, below, who hadn't taken a shot up to that point.
"Our play depended on whether he (Ashalou) was to make it or miss it," Starks explained. "He missed the shot, so we wanted to run the ball up and try to find myself, or someone else, for a 3 point shot. Challe (Barton) had the ball and he had the best look at that moment. Jared (Cunningham) was being denied and I was being denied. Challe was wide open, and it was a good look. He didn't make the shot, but it was a good possession I thought."
The inability to get the ball into the hands of a more experienced player than a lightly used freshman at the end, which wasn't the first time this season a game has got away from the Beavers and they weren't able to give themselves their best chance at pulling the game out, is something that Oregon St. still needs to address going forward.
Oregon (20-8, 11-5) remained in a tie with Colorado (19-9, 11-5) for 4th place in the Pac-12, after the Buffs upset California 70-57 in Boulder in the game that preceded this game in a nationally televised doubleheader on Fox Sports Net. The Buffs do hold the tiebreaker over the Ducks, on the strength of their 72-71 win in the teams' first meeting in Boulder, but the rematch is this Thursday at Matt Court in Eugene. Oregon has won 4 of 5 games since that first meeting with the Buffs, and Thursday night could well decide which team avoids having to play on the first day of the Pac-12 tournament the following week.
With the win, Oregon also posted consecutive 20 win seasons for just the third time ever.
Despite their best effort since winning the first of the season's Civil War battles 76-71, Oregon St. (15-13, 5-11) still lost their 5th game in a row, and 6 of their last 7, and fell into 9th place in the conference. The Beavers face Utah (6-22, 3-13) Thursday night at 7 at Gill Coliseum, and then conclude the regular season with senior day for McShane, their only upperclassman, next Saturday against Colorado at 1 PM. The Beavers are relegated to playing on opening day of the conference tournament in any event.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)