EUGENE — Three weeks after a battle that went down to the wire, Saturday’s rematch between Oregon and Oregon State featured no such drama as the Ducks led by double digits for the entire second half of a 78-56 win over the Beavers before 10,712 fans in Matthew Knight Arena.
Those fans saw Eric Williams Jr. cap the first half with a three-quarter-court heave that put the UO men up 44-25 at halftime — during which new UO football coach Dan Lanning addressed the crowd. The Beavers got no closer than 15 in the second half, as the Ducks shot 55 percent from the floor and had a 40-37 edge in rebounding to overcome 50 percent shooting from the free-throw line (7-of-14).
The win got Oregon back on track after their six-game winning streak ended at the hands of Colorado on Tuesday. The Ducks get another shot at the Buffs on the road next week.
“It feels good going into February knowing we have a nice stride,” said Jacob Young, who led the Ducks with 17 points. “We’re ready to get back in the lab. We’re not done yet.”
Saturday was marketed as “International Night” in Matthew Knight Arena, and the native flags of N’Faly Dante (Mali), Quincy Guerrier (Canada) and Franck Kepnang (Cameroon) hung from the bleachers at one end of the court. Whether coincidental or not, the post defense provided by that trio ended up being a huge story in the game — they combined for seven blocked shots as the Ducks outscored OSU in the paint 40-18 and held the Beavers to 30.3 percent shooting.
Dante in particular seemed energized from the start, blocking two shots and dunking home Oregon’s first two points of the game in transition. Later he had two offensive rebounds to keep alive a possession that ended in a basket for Young, two of seven points by Young during a 12-0 run that gave the Ducks a 28-17 lead. Young later hit a three that made it 37-22, and Williams scored on back-to-back possessions to end the half, including his three-point heave for a 44-25 lead.
“I like the energy — the crowd was great tonight, gave us more energy,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “Eric hit the shot at half, which he was pretty excited about. I thought the energy level was good.”
Consecutive three-pointers by De’Vion Harmon early in the second half made it 51-32. Young completed a three-point play for a 74-52 lead, and the Ducks were able to get some minutes for their bench late in the game without surrendering that 22-point advantage in the end.
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Young had 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting plus four rebounds and four assists. Will Richardson added 15 points on 3-of-5 shooting from three-point range, and Harmon scored 14 with another trio of three-pointers, while adding five rebounds and three assists.
But the story of the night was the bigs — Dante had nine points, 10 rebounds and three blocks plus two steals, and Kepnang and Guerrier each blocked two shots. Dante and Kepnang in particular took full advantage of their length, which hadn’t always been the case earlier in their careers.
“That’s the X factor for the run in our season,” Young said after the Ducks capped a 6-1 month of January. “When we were on the L.A. trip they were protecting the rim every possession, and we got the same thing tonight. If they keep protecting the rim like that, we have a good chance to win every game we play.”
After seeming to regain their momentum with Saturday’s win, the Ducks turn their attention to a rematch at Colorado — where the UO men’s basketball program has never won.
“This is bigger than us,” Williams said. “This is for Altman and the program.”
The Ducks play at Colorado on Thursday (7 p.m., FS1) before facing Utah on Saturday in Provo. Special guest host Brian Henderson will preview the Beavs game against Utah on Thursday, Feb. 3 and the Ducks Feb. 5 tipoff against the Utes with an interview with Utah men’s basketball coach Craig Smith on Tuesday afternoon’s James Crepea Show from 4pm to 6pm. James Crepea will be out of the studio Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons this week.