Despite a truly dismal offensive display, Oregon head coach Dana Altman and members of his team were in surprising good spirits after his squad's lackluster at best 58-45 win over North Carolina Central Tuesday night at Matthew Knight Arena. For the game, the Ducks shot 32.7 percent from the field (16-for-49), including a 5-for-25 first half that saw Oregon manage a paltry 21 points. Fortunately for the Ducks, their effort on defense was relentless as they forced 16 turnovers which they converted to 20 points, holding the Eagles to a ratchet-like 29.5 percent shooting performance for two halves.
After the game, Altman praised his team for their effort on the defensive end.
"I thought in the first half, our man-to-man was pretty good," Altman said. "But as I mentioned, I thought we were working pretty hard but we weren't creating any offense with our defense...We had seven steals in the second half compared to one in the first.
"Although both halves I thought our defensive effort was good, we just created some offense with our defense. On a night where we didn't shoot it very well at all, we needed that to happen."
Oregon seniors E.J. Singler and Garrett Sim led the Ducks with 13 points a piece. Like Altman, the two former high school players of the year in the state of Oregon admitted that while their execution on offense left plenty to be desired, adjustments made defensively at halftime sparked a second half run to victory.
"We really wanted to focus on the defensive end tonight," said Sim. "We trapped out of that zone that got us jumpstarted to start the second half...I think this was a good game for us defensively and we're not looking at [our offensive stats] too much.
"I think we were trying to do things a little too fast [offensively]," continued Sim. "We were really amped up on the defensive end and I think that kind of sped us up offensively."
Oregon's most reliable form of earning points on offense was getting to the free throw line and converting their opportunities. Against North Carolina Central, the Ducks went 20-for-22 from the line (90.9), outscoring the Eagles by 15 points from the charity stripe; a margin that nearly mirrored the difference between the two teams in the final score.
"In our three losses, we've shot free throws terribly," remarked Altman. "Tonight, we really shot them well.
"There were a lot of positives tonight. I thought our bounce was better, our ball movement was better...We still have a long ways to go, but I think we took a step in the right direction tonight."
On Wednesday, the Ducks hope to take another positive step as they face off against Prairie View A&M from the SWAC Conference, the second game for both teams in the three day Global Sports Hoops Showcase. Now at 7-3 and with a newly minted win to their name, Sim and the Ducks are striving to build upon the shred of encouraging momentum generated from Tuesday's victory.
"We are excited to get three games under our belt in three days," said Sim. "We had good camaraderie on the bench and during time outs. That is something we have lacked a little and we showed it more tonight.
"We are trying to stay together as a team."
Tip-off against Prairie View A&M is set for 7:00 p.m. Pacific from Matthew Knight Arena.
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
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