Victory Propels Ducks Into Semifinals
LAS VEGAS — After a cold start offensively, the Oregon men's basketball team exploded to a 91-73 victory Thursday over Arizona State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament at T-Mobile Arena.
The top-seeded Ducks (20-5) shot 59 percent in the game despite a 2-of-10 start against the Sun Devils, who were in rhythm early after playing in the opening round Wednesday. ASU held UO leading scorer Chris Duarte to six points, but LJ Figueroa scored a season-high 21 to lead the Ducks, Will Richardson had 17 points and Eugene Omoruyi finished with 15.
"I think it showed the depth of our team, with different guys able to score on a night (ASU) really worked to take Chris out of it," UO coach Dana Altman said.
How It Happened: Richardson and Omoruyi hit early three-pointers to put Oregon up 6-0, but those were the Ducks' only makes during their 2-of-10 start. ASU methodically chipped away at the lead, going up 15-13 and then taking its final lead of the game at 17-15.
"We were going a little fast, kind of excited," Altman said. "We've seen it before in our first game. The guys really want to win, and they really want to make the play (that sparks the team). So I just thought we were going a little fast. … But this is an experienced group, and I knew they'd bounce back."
Indeed, shots that had been going off the rim and out started to fall, and the Ducks scored on six straight possessions during a 14-2 run that put them up 29-19. After the Sun Devils took that 17-15 lead, they went the next 5:25 without a field goal, during which Oregon got the lead to double digits for the first time. The Ducks went 13-of-19 from the field following their 2-of-10 start, and led 35-27 at halftime.
Back-to-back threes early in the second half got ASU within six at 41-35. Duarte made his only three-pointer of the game to get some cushion back, the start of a 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 15. Amauri Hardy came off the bench to supply some offense down the stretch, including a three-pointer for a 63-47 lead, and Figueroa got the lead back to 16 at 70-54 with an emphatic slam dunk off an alleyoop from Duarte.
The Ducks ultimately led by as much as 24, when Hardy sliced to the basket for a dunk that made it 84-60. With potentially two more games looming in the next two days, Altman was able to get some rest for his starters and provide minutes for freshmen Jalen Terry and Franck Kepnang late in the game.
Who Stood Out: On a night Duarte was just 2-of-3 shooting, the Ducks still had more than enough offense. Figueroa was 9-of-16 shooting for his 21 points, and Richardson filled it up with 17 points, a season-high seven rebounds and a career-high-tying nine assists, plus two steals.
"It's so important to have a guard that knows what we want to do, how we want to play," Altman said. "He just did a tremendous job."
What It Means: The Ducks advanced to the semifinals for the seventh time in their last eight appearances at the Pac-12 Tournament, so Altman knows well the benefit of being able to get 19 minutes Thursday for Hardy, and four apiece for Terry and Kepnang.
"Being eight, nine deep really helps you," Altman said. "You never know about foul trouble. We've kind of got a rotation set now, but it's something that is important, that we do have guys available. … When you play (potentially) three games in three days, your bench is really important."
Notable: The Ducks joined Gonzaga and Belmont as teams with at least 20 wins each of the last 11 seasons, a group Kansas had a chance to join later Thursday. … Altman won his conference-record 20th Pac-12 Tournament game as head coach. … The Ducks shot better than 50 percent for the fourth time in five games, and committed 12 or fewer turnovers for the 10th time in the last 11 games.
Up Next: The Ducks moved on to face Oregon State in the semifinals Friday (5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network), after the Beavers beat UCLA in overtime later Thursday afternoon.