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Big Men Energize Ducks In Win

Feb 14, 2022

EUGENE, Ore. — Will Richardson hit a corner three-pointer on a baseline out-of-bounds play with 1 minute to play Monday, and the Oregon men's basketball team survived a late flurry by Washington State to beat the Cougars in Matthew Knight Arena, 62-59.

Down 39-35 early in the second half, the Ducks rallied into the lead and were pulling away when Richardson hit his three-pointer for a 62-53 lead. Oregon turned it over twice and missed two free throws in the final minute, allowing WSU to close within three and get two late attempts at a game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds — both of which missed.

The Ducks won despite shooting 5-of-19 from three-point range, and despite being outrebounded 49-43 — including 22 offensive rebounds that allowed the Cougars to score 21 second-chance points.

"Those type of nights, we've just got to grind," UO post Franck Kepnang said. "We've got to stay together, and that's what we did. … Like coach always says, there's many, many ways to win a basketball game."

The Ducks rebounded from Saturday's loss to Cal and improved to 17-8 overall and 10-4 in the Pac-12. That put them into a tie for second in the conference with USC, behind first-place Arizona and a half-game ahead of UCLA; Oregon faces all three in the next two weeks.

But first, the Ducks play Thursday at Arizona State. It will be a chance for Oregon to avenge an overtime loss to ASU in Eugene on Dec. 5.

"There is no big picture," UO coach Dana Altman said. "The big picture is Thursday night, and trying to win a game. … We lost a game to Arizona State here, so we should be ready to roll."

How It Happened: Oregon's errant three-point shooting in the loss to California carried over into Monday's rescheduled matchup with the Cougars. The Ducks missed their first six three-point attempts, but fed off the energy off big men Kepnang and N'Faly Dante to lead 15-14 before Eric Williams Jr. finally connected from behind the arc.

Five straight points from Dante got the lead to 24-16, and a three-point play from Kepnang followed by a De'Vion Harmon three-pointer capped a 12-2 run for a 30-18 lead. The Ducks took a 35-29 lead into halftime.

Washington State opened the second half on a 10-0 run, which Harmon finally ended on a three-pointer. His three-point play got Oregon back within 43-41, and Jacob Young tied it by shaking a defender on a pull-up jumper before feeding Quincy Guerrier with a no-look pass for a dunk and a 45-43 lead.

Two baskets by Dante got Oregon out front 49-44, and two in a row by Kepnang — with one of his four blocked shots in between — made it 57-50. Kepnang set a screen to free up Harmon for a layin and a 59-52 lead, and Richardson's three-pointer got the lead to nine before WSU's late rally.

The Cougars missed a three-pointer after Richardson's three, but Guerrier missed a free throw and WSU connected from deep to get within 62-56. A turnover by Harmon in the backcourt set up another WSU three, and a missed free throw by Harmon put the Cougars in position to tie the game at the buzzer. Fortunately for Oregon, both attempts missed.

"We gotta get a lot tougher," Altman said. "That's the statement of the game. We gotta get tougher on the boards … and we gotta get a lot tougher handling the ball late."

Who Stood Out: Dante and Kepnang combined for 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting with 12 rebounds and four blocks; Dante's 13 points and 10 rebounds gave him his first double-double of the season.

"Their effort, they saved us," Altman said. "They played really good."

Harmon also finished with 13 points plus six rebounds and two steals, Richardson had seven points with six rebounds and five assists and Young finished with nine points, four rebounds and four assists.

What It Means: The Ducks entered the night as one of the last four teams into the NCAA Tournament field according to Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, and one of the first four out according to Joe Lunardi of ESPN, so Monday's victory was a timely one.

"Since last game our mindset was, these next couple games we've really got to go after it," Kepnang said. "I don't think anyone's really focused on rankings. I think we're just focusing on getting better."

Up Next: The Ducks play at Arizona State on Thursday (6 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2).