In front of a 12,364 sellout crowd — the first sellout in two years — Oregon men’s basketball edged out the Washington Huskies 81-76 late in the game to improve to 18-2 overall and 7-0 in the Pac-12. The win gave them a two game lead over UCLA for best record in the Pac-12.
“This has been the best crowd,” EJ Singler said of the raucous fans. “The fans today were great. They really got us going in that stretch in the second half, and I’m really happy about the turnout today.”
The win came despite 23 turnovers by Oregon and multiple missed free throws in the final minute of the game which delayed the ability to shut the door on the Huskies. Oregon’s 27 points off turnovers, five more than Washington managed, ended up being crucial to Oregon coming out victorious.
Coach Dana Atlman wasn’t thrilled with the lack of production from the point guard position without his starting freshman but claims it isn’t something that should carry over into the rest of the season.
“Well, they are a confident bunch, regardless (of their record),” Altman said of his team. “That’s one of the reasons we had 23 turnovers. Really ambitious, really optimistic about what they can do with the ball. We need to curve some of that optimism at times but our guys have always been confident.”
Oregon shot 57 percent from the field but only 75 percent from the line and an even worse 25 percent from the three-point line. With starting point guard Dominic Artis out with indefinitely with a foot injury reserve guard Johnathan Loyd and freshman Willie Moore only managed seven assists with nine turnovers.
“I think the biggest thing is just not playing together in game situations a lot,” Singler said of adjusting to Moore at the point. “I thought he played good though, for a freshman coming into a Pac-12 game. That’s hard, trying to run the show. I gotta give him credit for that.”
EJ Singler continued his stretch of brilliant play and was without a doubt the savior for an Oregon team that almost gave the game away on multiple occasions. Singler finished with a game-high 18 points and four assists and was crucial in an Oregon run halfway through the second half that extended the lead into double digits.
Arsalan Kazemi also came up big for the Ducks, posting a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds and converting back-to-back three-point-plays.
“Coach Altman always talks about us not getting and-one’s so to get two of them was pretty exciting.” Kazemi said.
The first half was back-and-fourth with both teams shooting the ball well. Oregon, with help from seven straight points by Carlos Emory, went into the break with a 37-33 lead.
Turning point. After starting the second half strong, and getting a lead as large as 14 with 7:23 left to play, Oregon let Washington creep their way back in the game with help by Abdul Gaddy, who had 11 of his 13 points in the second half.
Oregon saw their lead dwindle to as small as four points with eight seconds left in what had earlier looked like a possible blowout due to poor foul shooting. Aside from Singler who hit a pair of clutch free throws, every Duck that went to the line in the last two minutes split a pair.
“We kept them at bay,” Altman said of the poor free-throw shooting. “We didn’t hit as many as we should have. We threw it to Willie and put him in a tough spot a couple of times. We still hit enough to get through but obviously we want to tighten that up.”
On the horizon. The Ducks will head south to California where they will play two road games. The first will come Wednesday night against Stanford and the second will be against Cal on Saturday afternoon. The two-game cushion in the Pac-12 is huge and can allow for some mistake but a bad road trip could pull the Ducks right out of their top spot.