After being thoroughly handled at Matthew Knight Arena by Stanford last season, the Ducks exacted a measure of revenge on the Cardinal Thursday night, as Oregon opened Pac-12 Conference play at home with a spirited 78-67 win that moved them to 11-4 overall and 2-1 in conference. After splitting their conference openers on the road last week at Washington State and Washington, the Ducks returned to action with a level of intensity that has been rather sporadic through the 14 previous contests.
Igniting the Ducks on Thursday was senior guard Devoe Joseph, who followed up a putrid 1-of-13 shooting performance his last time out in a road loss at Washington, with a career-high 30 points on 9-of-15 shooting from field, including 5-of-7 from three-point range.
"I had a lot of good looks and my teammates were finding me in open situations," said Joseph. "My teammates just trusted me. They trusted me in the Washington game and they found me in good spots, but I missed it. Today I made it. That's just the way I look at it."
Joseph was also the first Oregon player to score 30 points in a game since Tajuan Porter's 32-point outburst against Washington State in 2010 and was the fifth Duck this season to score 20 or more points in a single game.
Thursday's win over the Cardinal also marked the return of Oregon senior forward Tyrone Nared to the lineup. After injuring his knee December 18 versus Virginia, Nared missed the following five games, limiting Oregon's depth in the frontcourt and reducing the overall athleticism the Ducks could challenge the opposition with. Though he only registered five points and five rebounds in 23 minutes of play, the Woonsocket, R.I. native's return was a big emotional boost to the team, according Oregon junior center Tony Woods.
"It was big for me just because Ty is an energy guy for us," said Woods, who finished with eight points, five rebounds and three blocks. "We don't have a lot of ‘rah-rah' guys that get us going in the locker room. When Ty came back, he brought energy off the bench and definitely helped me on the block, weakside, blocking shots."
Despite Oregon coming away with an 11-point win, the Ducks and Cardinal had it out in the first half, as Oregon clung to a 34-32 lead at halftime. Stanford forward Josh Owens all scorers with 17 points at the break and looked poised to repeat the career-high 31-point, 11-rebound effort he had against the Ducks last season at Matthew Knight Arena. The second half was a much different story, however, as Oregon locked up Owens, holding him to only two second half points.
"I thought Olu [Ashaolu] and Tony really did a good job [on Owens]," said Oregon head coach Dana Altman. "I thought their aggressiveness was improved [in the second half]...I thought Tony, Olu and the team had a better recognition of where he was and didn't give him such easy baskets."
The Ducks have two days off before they face off against an angry California Golden Bear team that is coming off its first loss in conference play at Oregon State. Their loss to the Beavers not withstanding, Mike Montgomery's squad is expected to finish the year as one of the Pac-12's best and will be a formidable test for Oregon on Sunday, according to Altman.
"I like their team," said Altman. "They're well coached and their seniors have been with Mike for a few years, so there's a comfort level there. They know what they want out of possessions...We're going to have a heck of a battle on our hands Sunday."
Tip-off against California is set for Sunday, January 8 at 4:30 p.m. Live telecast of the game can be seen on ROOT Sports (FSN).
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