Over a month ago, Oregon went into halftime with the lead against Arizona State, but eventually settled for the loss after giving up a 19-0 second half run.
Tonight, the Ducks found themselves in the same predicament, taking a 34-26 lead into the break, fully knowing what was capable of the Pac-12’s second place team. However, the result wouldn’t be the same as Oregon (16-12, 7-8 Pac-12) came out and dominated the second half, outscoring the Sun Devils by 20 en route to a 79-51 victory.
“We’ve had some good defensive efforts in the first half, but that’s the best we’ve had in the second half,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We held them to 25 points in the second half and fouled too much, but other than that our energy and activity was good… our communication was better.”
Senior Ehab Amin, playing in his final home games this weekend, finished with 11 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists off the bench. Francis Okoro, who earned the start after two good weeks of practice, finished with seven points and a career-high 10 rebounds, giving the Ducks contributions from unlikely sources.
“Francis has been practicing so well,” Altman said. "That earned the start at UCLA, and he’ll be starting for a while because he’s just playing and practicing so hard... It’s given him confidence because he knows he’s been working his tail off.
“He has a lot of upside," Louis King said of Okoro. "It’s not just rebounding or dunking. He has a lot of moves in the post up. He can shoot it from 15 feet. As we go along, he’ll show more."
Okoro was instrumental in giving the Ducks a +18 advantage in rebounds, dominating the glass 44-26
King led Oregon with a game-high 19 points while Payton Pritchard added 18 points, four rebounds and four assists.
“The expectations this year and everyone talking about us being ranked and then dropping out, it has been up and down for all of us,” Amin said. “It has been hard, but today was a great example of how resilient this group is… we showed togetherness.”
Arizona State (19-9, 10-6 Pac-12) jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead, but Oregon righted the ship as a King dunk and Paul White three-pointer tied the game. Both teams exchanged leads until the Ducks began to pull away late in the half. Leading by four, Amin forced a Sun Devils turnover that led to a fast break opportunity for Oregon, resulting in a King three-pointer while getting fouled.
It play was big because the Ducks’ offense was becoming stagnant and the Arizona State was starting to find a rhythm, but King’s and-one gave Oregon the cushion and momentum it needed going into the break.
The Ducks began the second half on a tear, scoring the first 12 points of the half and holding Arizona State scoreless over five minutes — cruising to victory the rest of the way.
“Coming out of the locker room at halftime, we had to keep that same energy and tempo as we had in the first half,” King said.
Oregon’s defense continued to shine throughout the half, limiting the Sun Devils to 6-of-23 (26.1-percent) from the floor and 2-for-12 (16.7-percent) from beyond the arc. The Ducks were much more active on the floor, flying out at shooters and communicating better than they have before.
“They did not score the first five minutes of the half and I did not think we gave them a lot of good looks,” Altman said. “They missed a couple free throws and open 3-pointers, but we challenged their shooters.”
Oregon returns to action on Saturday night when it hosts a hot Arizona (17-12, 8-8 Pac-12) team, winners of three in a row. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN2.