Gaudy offensive numbers and an exciting pace underscored Oregon's 108-97 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes Sunday afternoon at Matthew Knight Arena in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. Apart from the Ducks posting a season-high scoring effort, the Ducks registered a season-high for assists with 26 and had two players score 20 points or more for the first time since January 2010, as E.J. Singler and Olu Ashaolu had 25 and 22 points, respectively.
All that glittered wasn't gold for the Ducks -- at least initially -- as Iowa jumped out to a 19-5 lead to begin the game and lead by as many as 15 points before Oregon rallied at the end of the first half cut the Hawkeye lead to four, 51-47. Defending Roy Devyn Marble proved to be particularly troublesome for the Ducks, as the sophomore from Southfield, Michigan scored 19 of his 31 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field, including going a perfect 5-for-5 from behind the arc in the first half.
"His numbers weren't that good [coming in to the game], but all those shots were in rhythm," said Oregon head coach Dana Altman of Marble's performance.
"Guys when they hit a couple shots, their eyes get pretty big. I think he missed his last one, but he was 7-for-7 [from three] before he missed that last one. Many players have that night. Sometimes it's in practice and not always in a game, but everyone's had one of those days where everything goes in."
Fittingly, the Ducks responded with a blistering shooting performance of their own in the second half, shooting 72 percent from the field en route to scoring 61 second-half points. According to Oregon guard Garrett Sim, it wasn't just supreme confidence in their offensive abilities that allowed them to fight back and assume the lead in the second half, but character and resolve that has been manifested throughout the season.
"It just shows the character of this team," said Sim. "We never got too down on ourselves. We knew we could claw our way back in to it and we didn't panic at all...I think veterans just kept everyone cool and we just kept making plays for each other."
The Ducks will now travel to Seattle to face the Washington Huskies in an NIT quarterfinal, with the winner of the game punching their ticket to New York City and Madison Square Garden for the NIT's version of the Final Four. Tuesday's game will be the third matchup between the Ducks and the Huskies this season, and with both teams each scoring a win against the other, bragging rights between the two rivals heading in to next season will also be on the line.
When asked to comment on quotes from Washington players the last few days saying the Huskies are out for revenge after suffering an embarrassing 82-57 loss in Eugene the last time the two teams met, Sim wouldn't take the bait.
"They can talk all they want," smiled Sim. "Playing at Washington is hard, so we need to stay together and play hard."
Oregon senior forward Olu Ashaolu is expected to be "full go" for the Ducks come Tuesday after diving head first after a loose ball and suffering a minor cut above his eye in the second half against Iowa. Ashaolu was down for several moments as the crowd at Matthew Knight Arena fell eerily silent as trainers attended to Ashaolu on the ground, though Ashaolu returned to the bench minutes after receiving treatment in the locker room. He did not return to the game.
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
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