It wasn't exactly how Oregon head coach Dana Altman drew it up, but the second year head man will take it, as the Ducks notched their first win of the regular season by clawing their way past Eastern Washington by a 73-65 score before 6,096 in attendance at Matthew Knight Arena Thursday night.
Similar to the season opener on the road at Vanderbilt, turnovers (21) and shoddy free throw shooting (63.6 percent on 28-of-44 attempts) kept Eastern Washington in the game for most of the way. In fact, the Eagles held a five point advantage at halftime and led by as many as nine early in the second half. After the game, Altman acknowledged his team's obvious flaws in their narrow victory.
"Some of the same problems that plagued us at Vanderbilt were obvious again tonight," Altman stated. "Turnovers were really bad, we didn't shoot free throws very well again...those things are focus and discipline and those are things we're not doing right now."
An argument could made that Eastern Washington was in control of the contest until late in the game before a series of tremendous defensive plays by the Ducks gave them a lead they ultimately wouldn't relinquish. A nifty drive through the lane and subsequent layup by sophomore guard Johnathan Loyd gave the Ducks a 60-58 lead with 5:37. Loyd then stole the Eastern Washington inbounds pass and found a cutting Garrett Sim for a layup before forcing a five-second violation which led to a Sim three-pointer that brought the home crowd to its feet and gave the Ducks an astonishing seven-point lead within a span of 23 seconds.
"I was just trying to make plays," said Loyd -- who finished with nine points, three assists and three steals -- of the sequence. "Coach put the ball in my hands on that one play and I saw an opening and I laid it up. I tried to keep it going with another steal and I was going to lay it up -- I'm not going to lie -- (but) I saw Garrett flash and I thought he was going to dunk on a guy, so I dropped it off to him."
Sim, who led the Ducks in scoring with 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, smarted at the missed opportunity.
"I should have dunked it," grinned Sim.
Apart from a few key plays, Altman believed going to a full court press in the second half went a long way in creating chances for his team to creep back in to the game. After shooting a lights out 46.7 percent from three-point land in the first half, the Ducks held Eastern Washington to 16.7 percent shooting from behind the arc, limiting the Eagles to only 28.6 percent from the entire field in the second half.
"I think with the press, their guards really had to work hard to get open," said Altman. "Offensively (in the second half), we just started driving it at them...and we were able to get to the free throw line by driving the ball at them."
Other than Sim, senior forward Tyrone Nared was the only other Duck in double figures, chipping in 15 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting performance from the field and a 5-for-5 shooting display from the free-throw line.
Senior guard Cliff Colimon lead Eastern Washington with 14 points and three assists.
The next game on the docket for the Ducks is a matchup against Southeast Missouri State on Sunday afternoon at Matthew Knight Arena. For Altman, the hope is that his team continues to gradually improve, as he admitted after the game that he's been dissatisfied with his squad's lack of overall progress to this point early in the season.
"I'm not questioning their talent," stated Altman, "I'm questioning their ability to play as a team; their ability to make plays for their teammates. Those are the things that we've really got to improve upon.
"We've got to be a lot more patient, we've got to make plays for our teammates and if we do that, we'll make progress."
The Ducks return to action Sunday afternoon against the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks. Tip-off from Matthew Knight Arena is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Pacific.
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
Ducks Edge Eastern Washington
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