EUGENE, Ore.,- It was the worst half they’d played all season. Just four days following a Los Angeles-road sweep, the Ducks come out brand-new basketball flat in the first half Wednesday.
Washington State outrebounded the Ducks, shot 7-for-13 from three and forced 10 turnovers. What it added up to was a 10-point halftime deficit.
“They really took it to us the first half. They outrebounded us, outfought us. They won almost every stat,” said head coach Dana Altman. “We were a step slow. I’m not sure of the reason for that, but we weren’t prepared to play.”
But much like their Pac-12 opener at Gill Coliseum, the Ducks righted the ship in the second half, refueled, reenergized and simply better. The result was a 68-61 victory and their first 6-0 conference start since the Coolidge Administration (1925-26 season).
Following the comeback victory in Corvallis, Altman said he “lost his cool” at halftime and that appeared to be the same catalyst in Wednesday’s win. The halftime motivation was similar, forward Arsalan Kazemi said, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
“Our coaches came after us at halftime and said ‘You can’t play like this and you’re not going to win it,’” he said.
“We told them that we were upset, disappointed,” Altman said with a wry smile. “There was plenty to talk about.”
The comeback began on the defensive end, where it often does. The Ducks increased defensive effort held the Cougars scoreless for the first 4:50 of the second half and defense led to offense as the Ducks cut the lead to just one point.
“We just wanted to get up on the defensive end and make plays there first. We knew we could have the defense go into our offense,” Singler said.
And then the Ducks and Cougars battled back and forth before Singler took it on his own. The forward, whose offensive numbers are greatly diminished from a year ago, scored eight straight and 12 of 14 to put the game out of reach.
Those three categories that Washington State had exploited in the first half were each greatly improved in the second. Oregon kept the Cougars off the glass, to the tune of an eight rebound second-half advantage. The three-point proficiency that had built the Cougars lead in the first, was stopped in its tracks in the second, when they missed all of their 11 three-point tries. And Oregon turned it over just six times in the second period.
But, what the furious second half taught the Ducks, is that they shouldn’t need a furious second half at all.
“It’s all great to turn it up in the second half and everything, but you can’t do that against every team,” Kazemi said.
“This is probably the last game we can do that with. So we’ve got to keep on reminding ourselves… that the game is 40 minutes,” Singler said.
For now, though, they’ll take the win.