Billed by many as Oregon basketball's biggest game since the Ernie Kent era, head coach Dana Altman and the Ducks exacted revenge against Colorado after suffering a controversial loss almost one month ago in Boulder. Senior guards Garrett Sim and Devoe Joseph combined for 43 points as the Ducks secured no worse than fourth place in the Pac-12 standings after their 90-81 victory over the Buffaloes Thursday night at Matthew Knight Arena.
Trailing 41-36 at halftime after Colorado shot 63 percent from the field in the first half, the Ducks rallied, using a 12-6 run to start the second half to take the lead for good with 15:18 left to go in the game.
"I think we knew we needed more energy," said Sim, who finished with 19 points, including 5-of-7 shooting from three. "We were a little flat in that first half. They made a few runs and I think we got on our heels a little bit, so we knew we had to bring the first punch, starting off in the second half."
The fist which the Ducks used to throw that second half punch came in the form of Devoe Joseph. 13 of Joseph's 24 points came in the second half, as the senior from Toronto hit off-balance shot after contested bucket to lead the Ducks to their 12th conference win and 21st win overall.
"Joevan [Catron] had a few really good offensive performances last year, but that was pretty good by Devoe," said Altman after his team's win. "It really felt like he knew when he had somebody and he really was patient. He really made some good plays -- five assists, one turnover -- I just thought he was really good...He was definitely the difference in the game tonight."
The Ducks were also the recipient of 27 points off of 15 Colorado turnovers; a telling statistic that ultimately portended Oregon's march to victory.
"I think we did a great job in transition and we really pushed the ball," said Joseph as he talked about his team's effort on defense. "We created the steals that put us in position to run and it was our defense that won us the game."
Speaking of defense, Oregon forward Tyrone Nared played his fair share of quality defense versus the Buffaloes after a shoulder injury to Tony Woods sidelined the 6'11'' junior for much of the second half. Though Woods' injury isn't thought to be anything more than a minor tweak, the Ducks have to feel confident in their frontcourt depth after Nared broke out of a season-long slump to provide not only quality defense, but timely rebounding and clutch free throw shooting in the waning minutes of Thursday night's game.
"It was so good to see Tyrone finally get back in the flow," said Altman of Nared, who finished with six points, five rebounds, two steals, and a key block at the end of the game. "He had been kind of stuck in neutral here and just flat-footed and not using his athleticism, but man, he made a couple, three athletic plays down the stretch -- couple big rebounds, big block, six-for-six from the free throw line. I hope that gets him started again cause his presence in that last five or six minutes was really big."
With a bye in the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament virtually assured, the Ducks face Utah in their regular season finale Saturday afternoon at Matthew Knight Arena. Though the Utes sport a paltry 6-23 record overall and 3-14 ledger in conference heading in to Saturday's game, Oregon needs a win to lock up the third seed in next week's tournament.
After the game, Altman said he reminded his team that their work is far from done and that plenty remains to be accomplished if an NCAA Tournament berth lies in their future.
"I told our guys we haven't finished anything," remarked Altman.
"All we have done is kept our ourselves in the hunt and we've got a lot of hunting left to do."
Tip-off against Utah at Matthew Knight Arena is set for 3:00 p.m. Pacific. The game can be seen live on Comcast Sports Network Northwest.
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
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