After a convincing blowout win in their first exhibition game, the Ducks found buckets a little tougher to come by on Sunday. Aaron Brooks took the game in his hands late and led the Ducks to a 66-58 win over Western Oregon.
An inspired effort by the NCAA Division II Wolves kept them in the game all night and a rebound and basket by former South Medford star Ryan Fiegi gave the Wolves a lead at 58-57 with 3:37 left. That's when Brooks came alive.
"He came up big for us," Oregon center Ian Crosswhite said of Brooks.
On consecutive possessions Brooks, who finished with 21 points, was fouled and went 1-2 at the line on each trip, putting the Ducks up one with 2:35 left.
Western came down the floor and put the ball in Kevin Tyner's hands. The 6-0 guard from Portland's Central Catholic High School had been tough for the Ducks to stop. He had 18 points on 5-10 shooting and looked to be on his way to 20 when he drove baseline down the left side.
As he started to go up for a shot, Brooks was standing in his way. Tyner flew right into the Oregon guard and a charge was called. Oregon ball with 2:06 left.
The Ducks decided to do what the Wolves had been doing so well all night; slow the game down. With the shot clock winding down, Oregon put the ball in Brooks' hands. Oregon Head Coach Ernie Kent called for play four which sent Crosswhite up to the top of the key for a high screen and roll.
Brooks dribbled to his left off the screen, pulled up a few feet behind the three-point line and pulled the trigger.
"I figured there was nothing to lose so just shoot it," Brooks said.
He drilled it.
"That was big time," Crosswhite said. "He's been working on that all summer."
Oregon led 62-58, but the way Western was playing; they were still in the game.
The Duck defense stepped up and kept the Wolves from getting any offensive flow. Eventually, Western got the ball to Fiegi and he went to the hoop. Again Brooks was waiting and took the charge, his second in as many plays.
After two free throws by Crosswhite and two by Malik Hairston, who finished with 15 points, Oregon had pulled it out, but it wasn't pretty.
"This team is going to have to learn how to grind out and win games," Kent said.
Western's biggest weapon, outside of Tyner and Feigi's shooting, was controlling the game's flow. The Ducks could not get out in transition like they would normally want to. Western would drop two guys back after a shot attempt in order to slow the Ducks down and they also worked the shot clock before taking a shot.
"They really controlled the tempo of the game," Crosswhite said. "They controlled how we played to certain extent."
The Wolves also controlled the glass. The team that doesn't list a player over 6-7 grabbed 29 rebounds in comparison to Oregon's 26.
It wasn't all negative for the Ducks though. After stressing defense last week in practice, Oregon held their opponent to 58 points.
"We made progress from last game, especially on defense," Brooks said. "Now we've got to put it all together."
In the end, it just came down to Oregon's talent beating WOU's heart and desire. Luckily, for Oregon, this was only an exhibition game and the team has a week before taking on Idaho State on Friday.
Looking ahead, both Ian Crosswhite, who finished with 11 points, and Coach Kent had similar thoughts about this team and where it needs to go.
"We've still got a lot of work to do," Crosswhite said. "We can't get complacent. People say how good this team could be but we have to do a lot to reach our potential."
"We have the potential to be a great team down the stretch but we're not there yet," Kent said.
WOU Gives the Ducks a Scare
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