Ducks Battle WSU To The Wire
EUGENE, Ore. — The Oregon men's basketball team fought through rust and a disjointed game that featured 52 fouls Thursday night, falling short in just their second game in a month, 74-71 to Washington State in Matthew Knight Arena.
Leading scorer Chris Duarte and top rebounder LJ Figueroa each played for the first time since Jan. 9, having missed time due to COVID-19 protocols, and Will Richardson made his first appearance of the year following thumb surgery. But both Figueroa and Duarte were injured in the game, and Duarte didn't return after a hard fall early in the second half. Oregon led momentarily after his injury but soon fell behind and never caught up despite staying within single digits the rest of the way.
"It'll be a big challenge without Chris" if Duarte has to miss more time, UO coach Dana Altman said. "He's been a really good player for us."
How It Happened: Oregon led for a total of 31 seconds, all just after halftime. The Ducks (9-4, 4-3) went into the half down 36-31, but Eugene Omoruyi had a steal on the opening possession and passed to Richardson, who fed Duarte for a layup. Two possessions later, Figueroa hit a game-tying three-pointer.
But Duarte was injured going for an offensive rebound soon after. Omoruyi put Oregon up 38-36 with two free throws, and Figueroa gave the Ducks the lead again on their next possession, 40-38. But the Cougars answered that with a three-pointer, and they led the rest of the way.
Down 66-63 late in the game, the Ducks got Omoruyi open for a corner three, but it was just off. The Cougars missed one of two free throws inside the final 20 seconds to give Oregon the ball when it was a one-possession game, but the Ducks settled for a two-point basket by Lök Wur and WSU stayed in front.
The Cougars took control in the first half thanks to the three-point shot. WSU was 8-of-16 in the half, while Oregon struggled to keep up thanks in part to 10 turnovers.
Who Stood Out: Omoruyi, now the only player to start all 13 games this season, had 21 points with seven rebounds. Figueroa had a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards, and Duarte and Amauri Hardy scored 11 points each. Richardson had 10 in his season debut, plus six rebounds and five assists.
What It Means: The Ducks were playing for the first time since Jan. 23, and just the second time since Jan. 9, owing to two pauses due to pandemic protocols. Altman had predicted an "ugly" game in which Oregon would have to fight through rust, and though the fouls made the game tough to watch at times, the Ducks at least looked better than they did in the loss to OSU on Jan. 23.
"We had a little better depth, obviously, with Will and LJ, and Chris was playing well until he got hurt," Altman said. "We had added depth, so I thought we did play better."
Notable: Junior Eric Williams Jr. was unable to play as he comes out of COVID-19 protocols, but he was able to attend the game and watch from the bench in sweats. … Figueroa left the game game briefly in the first half after injuring his left lower leg but returned a few minutes later. … The two teams combined for 52 fouls, one off the arena record; Oregon's previous 12 games saw an average of 32.9 fouls. The Ducks' 28 fouls were two more than their previous high at Matthew Knight Arena, 26, reached twice previously since the building opened.
Up Next: The Ducks host Washington on Saturday (1 p.m., CBS).