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UO Men Finish Strong To Win

Dec 1, 2021

EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon made plays at both ends down the stretch to hold off UC Riverside in a 71-65 nonconference victory Wednesday at Matthew Knight Arena.

After the Highlanders pulled ahead 56-55 with 9:10 to play, Eric Williams Jr. made a three-pointer to get the Ducks back in front. Moments later Williams hit another bucket that was followed by two from Will Richardson and a three-point play by De'Vion Harmon, which all came amid a series of UO defensive stops in which UC Riverside could only muster desperation three-point attempts late in the shot clock.

The win was Oregon's second straight following consecutive losses in the Maui Invitational. The Ducks shot better than 60 percent combined in wins over Montana and UC Riverside to put the previous week's offensive woes behind them.

"We needed a win, and we found a way to get it," UO coach Dana Altman said. "Lotta things to improve upon, but there's gonna be those games where you just gotta scratch out a win."

How It Happened: Two days after making 12 straight shots early in the first half against Montana, Oregon opened Wednesday's game by connecting on eight straight field-goal attempts. The hot start was capped by consecutive threes from Quincy Guerrier and Richardson, putting the Ducks up 21-13.

Oregon struggled to keep UC Riverside away from the rim, however, as the Highanders scored 14 straight points in the paint to stay within striking distance at 21-17. Jacob Young scored seven in a row for the Ducks as they extended their lead to 32-24, but UC Riverside countered Oregon's 65.4 percent first-half shooting with 63 percent shooting of their own to trail just 42-37 at halftime.

"We're just still not there yet," Williams said of the overall defensive effort. "We gave up 42 points in the paint and had one blocked shot. … I think we'll get better as the season goes on, but we can't keep giving up points like that."

The Highlanders rallied just after halftime to tie the game 49-49, and though Rivaldo Soares quickly regained the lead for Oregon with a three-pointer, UC Riverside managed to take the lead at 56-55. The next UO possession saw the shot clock dwindling down before Williams created space for himself and knocked down a three-pointer, kicking off Oregon's late-game surge.

It was 59-58 when Williams took a pass in the corner, drove the baseline and then cut into the lane before putting up a turnaround jump shot for a 61-58 lead. Richardson scored the next two buckets for Oregon, and Harmon completed a three-point play with 1:52 left for a 68-63 lead. Three times in that stretch, UC Riverside was unable to create an open shot at its own end, ultimately throwing up three-pointers that missed the rim entirely for shot-clock violations.

The Ducks continued to play tough defense in the final two minutes, and they knocked down enough free throws down the stretch to hang on for the win.

Who Stood Out: Richardson followed up his 18-point performance Monday against Montana with a team-high 17 on Wednesday, plus five assists. N'Faly Dante finished with 12 points and five rebounds, and Williams added 11 points with eight boards. Harmon scored nine and Guerrier added eight as the Ducks leaned heavily on their starting five.

What It Means: Coming off a disheartening two weeks of road games, Oregon seemed to recapture some momentum this week at home. That will be put to the test Sunday in the conference opener.

"The competition we've faced has been pretty good, we just haven't handled the adversity well," Altman said. "But conference play is different — guys are more locked in, people know you a little better. So our guys will have to get ready."

Up Next: The Ducks host Arizona State in their Pac-12 opener Sunday (4 p.m., Pac-12 Network).