It was a memorable night at Matthew Knight Arena.
There were 10,621 in attendance for senior night on Thursday, and every fan had the rare opportunity to witness one of the best Civil War battles in recent memory. All four seniors played their hearts out in their final home game, forever engraving their mark as Ducks.
Not only did they leave hometown fans with a lasting victory over the Beavers, but they fittingly led their team to another crucial win in Pac-12 play. The Ducks are rolling, and momentum is riding high. Heading into the Pac-12 Tournament, they hold the top seed, and it will take nothing short of spectacular play to stop the most balanced team in the conference.
All the pieces of the puzzle fit as all four seniors finished with impressive numbers. Shots were falling, balls were being sent into the stands left and right, all the while emotions were riding high. E.J. Singler, Tony Woods, Arsalan Kazemi and Carlos Emory all shined in their respective ways, and they will leave this town with no regrets. The process for filling their presence will be difficult, and Eugene will without a doubt miss every one of these players — both on and off the court.
Arsalan Kazemi — He couldn’t have ended better: Finishing with 17 points and a team-high 12 rebounds, Kazemi continued to be the consistent double-double machine fans have grown accustomed to. During his senior speech following the game, he looked both emotional and thankful for his time at Oregon. He was a favorite among Duck fans, and his non-stop effort will be dearly missed in the seasons to come.
“This has been an amazing year,” Kazemi said during his post-game speech. “I love this place, and I never want to leave.”
Carlos Emory — At the 16:15 mark, the Ducks were within five points of the Beavers. After picking up play on the defensive end, Oregon was right back in the game before Oregon State even thought of blinking. But Emory was responsible for leading the initial charge that would give the Ducks the slight edge they desperately needed. With six straight points, including a foul on a three-point attempt, he helped the team come to within two of the Beavers in a span of a minute. He has been the epitome of what it means to play the role of sixth man, and his prolific scoring and high-flying ability will forever be remembered as the closest player to Freddy Jones Oregon has seen. Emory finished the game with a team high 21 points, along with four rebounds, leading the Ducks offensively all night.
He was all about thanking the fans after the game as he kept it short but sincere: “I couldn’t have done it without you guys.”
Tony Woods — If there was one player who was ready to play on senior night, it was Woods. Finishing with 16 points and three blocks — two of which went into the stands — he led the Ducks with his inside presence. The 6-foot-11 senior has been there whenever the team has needed something to get the crowd going, and his back-to-back dunks with just under 11 minutes perfectly summed up the type of career he has had at Oregon. The saying “Deep in the Woods” will never quite be the same without him, as the soft-spoken big man leaves his rather large imprints at the arena.
He thanked the Pit Crew especially for the yearly support: “Night in night out, the Pit Crew is there for us.”
E.J. Singler — What would this Ducks team be without Singler? He has been the lone-remaining symbol for what Ducks basketball has represented these past four years — the only player to start and finish his career as a Duck. He has been the outspoken leader of this team all season long, and though there have been times fans questioned his shot selection, the term “veteran leadership” has never been so fitting. In his final home game, he finished with nine points and six assists. It was only fitting he finished his career with numbers shouting balanced. He has never quite managed to average jaw dropping numbers, but his effective, yet subtle numbers will always separate him from previous and future Ducks.
Last, but certainly not least, Singler thanked everyone in the stadium from his parents and family to the managers, who he said “(w)orked harder than everybody else.” With specific regards to his family, he added, “I don’t think they’ve missed a game in four years.”
At the end of the night, no one was prouder than Oregon head coach Dana Altman. He was very proud of how his seniors battled back in the second half and is looking forward to finishing out the season strong with his talented group of guys.
“Well, I think E.J. thanked everybody but (the media),” Altman joked. “I always like senior players having an opportunity to thank the fans, especially here with the Pit Crew and the people who have followed us all year. It was a good win for our team, and we really battled back in the second half.”
This group of seniors have definitely made this special run possible for the Ducks. As they head into the Pac-12 Tournament with a Top-25 ranking and top seed, they will have as good a shot as any to not only take home the Pac-12 title, but also to advance further than the first initial rounds of the NCAA Tournament, assuming they finish out the season accordingly. All four seniors are ready to tackle their final obstacles as collegiate athletes, and they will have the entire city of Eugene behind them.