Ducks Continue Slide, Lose To St. Mary's

After being blasted on the road against Missouri a week ago, the Oregon men returned home Saturday afternoon to face St. Mary's. Despite a hard fought 81-76 loss, the Ducks played arguably their best game as a team as they continue to search for a rhythm without their two senior leaders.

It started ugly, but got much better. Despite falling into a 7-0 hole to the Gaels to start the game, Oregon clawed its way back and eventually gained a lead. However, the clutch perimeter shooting, powerful inside game, and consistent free throw shooting of St. Mary's was too much to overcome for a team that is searching for an identity with senior leaders, Tajuan Porter and Joevan Catron, sidelined with nagging ankle and back injuries respectively.

While the Ducks out shot St. Mary's 50 to 47 percent from the field, Oregon struggled mightily from the charity stripe making 12-of-21 free throws (57.1 percent) compared to St. Mary's stellar 20-of-24 (83.3 percent) performance from the line. This, as it typically is in close games, was the difference between a win and a loss.

"It came down to free throws," said Oregon freshman forward E.J. Singler, "and they beat us. I think we've got to have an emphasis on free throws. Before this game we were the leading Pac-10 school (in free throw percentage). It comes down to free throws and they beat us on that."

Singler, who had a career high 12 points on Saturday, was one of three Ducks (along with Malcolm Armstead's 14 and Michael Dunigan's 10) who finished in double figures. Oregon head coach Ernie Kent was fairly pleased with his team's overall performance, but pointed that -- along with free throw shooting -- the Ducks left a lot of easy points on the floor this afternoon.

"If you want to look for swings," said Kent, " I thought there was a big swing in the game where we had a great play where Malcolm makes a pass to Teondre and we miss the layup or dunk that possibly is a foul is he does dunk it and they go down and hit a three.

"That's like a five, six point swing in the game and I felt like that gave them momentum in the game. And that was when we were up five points. It could have been a big, big difference, big change in the game right there."

Though the Ducks certainly missed a number of easy opportunities to extend a lead over St. Mary's, the Gaels did an outstanding job of working a devastating inside-outside game on offense. Paced by 22 points from center Omar Samhan and 21 from guard Matt Dellavedova, St. Mary's was able to keep the Ducks at arm's length for most of the game.

"It's a big difference when (Samhan) is on his game down there," stated Kent, "because he can score the ball and he's pretty good player down there...with the big guy on his game and you can put the shooters around him, they're a pretty good basketball team offensively."

The loss to St. Mary's is the Ducks' fourth in the last five games, dropping them to 4-4 overall. Oregon's second game of a five game home stand comes Wednesday, December 16 where they will host Mississippi Valley State at 7:00 pm.

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