Seventh Straight Over Arizona Sets Up Showdown With UCLA
EUGENE, Ore. — The Oregon men's basketball team beat Arizona in Matthew Knight Arena on Monday to set up a battle against UCLA with first place in the Pac-12 on the line Wednesday.
The Ducks' 80-69 victory over the Wildcats moved Oregon to 12-4 in conference play, a half-game behind the Bruins (13-4). The UO men host UCLA in Matthew Knight Arena on Wednesday (6 p.m., ESPN2), before closing out the regular season Sunday at Oregon State.
"We know we've got to get UCLA on Wednesday, and then we've got to go and get Oregon State on Sunday," Pac-12 player of the year candidate Chris Duarte said. "We're just very excited about that chance we have, winning the conference title. We're just taking it day by day."
Duarte and his fellow starters carried the day Monday, as the Ducks needed just two points from their bench to post their seventh straight victory over Arizona. Duarte scored 22 points and Eugene Omoruyi added 21 to lead four scorers in double figures.
"It's just great to be in this position," UO coach Dana Altman said. "Through the two pauses (due to COVID-19 protocols earlier this year) and a couple bad losses at home, for them to be resilient and fight back like they have — they didn't get down. They came back and did a tremendous job. So I want them to have fun; I want them to enjoy this week."
How It Happened: The Ducks were scorching the nets early, shooting 7-of-12 overall and 5-of-6 from three-point range in the opening minutes. Duarte and LJ Figueroa hit threes during a 7-0 run that put Oregon up 16-8, and Duarte hit another for a 19-11 lead.
From there, the UO men went cold, missing 10 straight shots until a follow dunk by Franck Kepnang nearly seven minutes later — Oregon's only bench points of the game. That gave Oregon a 23-21 lead, and Arizona responded by making 4-of-5 attempts to go in front, 33-27. But the Ducks got hot from distance again to mount a 10-0 run, with threes by Omoruyi and Duarte. Another triple by Duarte just before halftime gave Oregon a 40-36 lead at the break.
"They gave us their best shot, we responded, and I just thought from there we were in pretty good shape," said Altman, who credited the players on Oregon's bench with providing energy in the absence of UO fans in MKA.
Again the Ducks started the second half shooting well, and Will Richardson capped a 7-0 run with a three-pointer for a 51-40 lead. Arizona closed within five at 57-52 but Omoruyi followed with a three-pointer and then a three-point play, and Richardson hit another three for a 66-54 lead. The Ducks ultimately led by as many as 15, at 78-63 on a Duarte bucket and 80-65 on a basket by Figueroa.
Who Stood Out: Duarte was 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-5 from three-point range, and also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Omoruyi started slow but finished with 21 points plus five rebounds and four steals, and Figueroa had 14 points with five rebounds. Richardson added 12 points with five assists, and Eric Williams Jr. scored nine points and had six rebounds.
What It Means: With the Ducks in the midst of playing five games in 11 days, Altman said he consulted with NBA personnel on how to manage his roster through this stretch. Based on recommendations from them, he said, Oregon won't practice Tuesday.
"They just said, get guys loose and get 'em out of there," Altman said. "They've gotta have energy at game time. So we didn't do anything yesterday. We had a very short shoot-around this afternoon. And I thought our energy level was good. So we'll try the same thing for Wednesday night."
Notable: Monday marked Oregon's 276th win over the past 11 seasons, a program record. The Ducks' three-point field goal percentage, .545, was their best of the year (12-of-22). Omoruyi scored in double figures for the 20th time this season.
Up Next: Oregon hosts the Bruins on Wednesday (6 p.m., ESPN2).