Oregon squeaks by ASU with a 59-56 victory

Photo: Oregon Ducks forward Dwayne Benjamin (0) dribbles the ball past Arizona State Sun Devils guard Bo Barnes (33) at Matthew Knight Arena. Photo by Scott Olmos — USA Today

EUGENE — Behind an impressive performance from freshman big man Jordan Bell, the Oregon Ducks fought through a sloppy first half effort and squeaked out a 59-56 victory over Arizona State on Saturday afternoon from Matthew Knight Arena.

The Ducks (12-4, 2-1) were able to fend off the Sun Devils (8-8, 0-3) while holding a four point lead in the final ten seconds of the game. Guard Dillon Brooks knocked the ball out of bounds after of a missed free throw by Sun Devils guard Tra Holder to give the visiting team one last shot to tie the game. However, Shaquielle McKissic’s three-point attempt at the buzzer fell short and the Ducks escaped.

Bell was four-of-five shooting on the night with eight points, including the last two field goals on a put back and fast break layup that put the Ducks ahead for good.

But it was his eight blocks and six rebounds were the difference maker. The 6-foot-9 rim protector did his job and then some on Saturday and in the process surpassed the school record for blocks in a season (51) early in the first half, keeping the Sun Devils from procuring some easy buckets.

Senior guard Joseph Young led the Ducks with 16 points while forward Elgin Cook added 14 points. The Ducks were only able to get nine points from their bench but shot an even 50 percent from the field as a team against ASU.

Both teams were sloppy in the first half, with Oregon committing a number of fouls and turnovers and Arizona State struggling to capitalize on the offensive end and at the free throw line. The Sun Devils shot just over 40 percent for the game, including 3-for-17 from beyond the arc and a costly 15-for-26 at the charity stripe.

The Ducks went over nine minutes without a field goal in the first half, but rallied with a 7-0 run sparked by Bell and Young to grab a 25-23 lead at halftime.

The teams stayed close the entire second half, but whenever the Sun Devils grabbed a lead they were unable to pull away.

ASU went up four on a Jonathan Gilling three-pointer from the corner with 4:23 remaining, but it was immediately answered by a Brooks layup and free throw to narrow the lead to one point. The Ducks went ahead on a Young three-pointer on the next possession and the battled ensued until the final whistle.

McKissick led all Sun Devils with 18 points and forward Eric Jacobsen added 13 points on a perfect 6-for-6 shooting day.

The Sun Devils will play ninth-ranked Utah at home next Thursday while the Ducks will head to Pullman to face off with former head coach Ernie Kent and his Washington State Cougars.

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