Ducks Struggle in Opening Win

Eugene -- The Oregon Ducks struggled mightily in their home opener at McArthur Court in Eugene Friday night before prevailing over the Northern Colorado Bears of the Big Sky Conference 66-64. With the victory, Ducks head coach Ernie Kent tied basketball Hall of Famer Howard Hobson for the all-time career lead in coaching victories at Oregon with 212.

(PHOTO) LeKendric Longmire on his way to 15 points, 5 boards and 4 steals. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

Despite being undersized at every position, the Bears were not intimidated and challenged the Ducks deep into the 2nd half. Northern Colorado used an aggressive defense to keep the first half close and trailed only 30-28 going into intermission.

Their seemed to be a lid on the bucket in the first half for Oregon who shot only 28.2% on 11-39 from the field. LeKendric Longmire who led the Ducks with 15 points was the lone bright spot for Oregon with ten first half points on 4-6 shooting.

Kent had some thoughts on his teams lethargic start.

"We are a work in progress and that's how it's going to be for a while," said Oregon Head Coach Ernie Kent. "To win we'll have to step up defensively. There's no Malik (Hairston) or Maarty (Leunen) like last year and we need to count on the guys we have. We have to play much better offense. We missed too many wide open shots."

There were glimpses of the potential that this young group of Ducks possess. Freshmen center Michael Dunigan was solid despite foul trouble all night and brought the house down with an alleyoop slam off a feed from TaJuan Porter early in the second half.

Churchill Odia gave Oregon a lead they would not relinquish at 48-46 with his second three pointer of the game at the eleven minute mark of the 2nd half. The Ducks were able to take advantage of Northern Colorado foul trouble, converting five straight free throws while the Bears were in the double bonus, to extend the lead to 53-46.

Oregon had their big lead of the game at 61-49 after a Garrett Sim three pointer but the Bears clawed all the way back to within 61-59 after a three pointer by Jefferson Mason closed the gap to two. Oregon answered with a dunk by Dunigan and a layup from Kamyron Brown.

The Bears still were not done and had the ball and a chance to tie on the final possession of the game with Oregon clinging to a 66-63 lead. Northern Colorado turned the ball over without getting a shot up on a held ball with the arrow pointing in the Ducks direction.

Oregon immediately turned the ball over again and the Bears Jefferson Mason missed the potential tying three pointer. The rebound was corralled by Bear point guard Yahosh Bonner who was fouled attempting a three.

Bonner hit the first free throw with 1.9 seconds remaining in front of a raucous home crowd before missing his second attempt. Bonner then misfired on purpose but Dunigan hauled in the rebound and time expired giving Kent a share of history at Oregon.

Reflecting on his accomplishment, Kent said that "when you obtain a record like this, it means you have had some great players and unbelievable assistant coaches. I've been very fortunate."

Mason led the Bears with 15 points, all coming in the 2nd half. Northern Colorado is coached by former Duck assistant coach Tad Boyle who is in his third season with the Bears.

"We had some mental mistakes," admitted Mason. "It was a tough loss, but hopefully we'll pick it up for the next game. We just need to stay positive and we'll do fine."

Dunigan had 13 points and 7 rebounds for Oregon while Sim chipped in nine points. Fellow freshman Josh Crittle contributed six points and seven rebounds.


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