Coming in to Saturday night's contest against Oakland University, the Oregon men were facing questions regarding whether or not they could stack up with a team from the Summit League that had unequivocally had their number each of the previous two seasons. Those questions were answered in rather emphatic fashion this evening as the Ducks improved to 6-4 by imposing their will defensively against a team who prides itself on scoring the orange.
"I just thought they played very, very good basketball -- particularly defensively -- against a really good scoring offensive team," said Oregon head coach Ernie Kent,
"The difference in the game was our defense."
While the Ducks scored 32 points off 13 Oakland turnovers, it was Oregon's pressure defense in rushing and contesting shots that really determined the outcome. On the whole, Oregon limited the Golden Grizzlies to 32.7 percent shooting from the field, while Michael Dunigan and Jeremy Jacob effectively stymied Oakland low post threat, Keith Benson, who averaged a double-double in points and rebounds coming in, but finished with 14 points and three rebounds on Saturday.
"Against a big guy who's been averaging a double-double in Benson, I thought he (Dunigan) neutralized him in a big way," said Kent.
"He got him in foul trouble early and went at him. Mike was very good in the game and he has been practicing well."
Dunigan recorded his first double-double effort of the season, leading all scorers with 16 points and snagging 10 rebounds. When Dunigan was on the bench, Jeremy Jacob picked up the slack. Jacob -- along with guard Malcolm Armstead -- finished with 12 points and is beginning to establish himself as one of the Ducks' most consistent low-post scoring threats.
"I wanted to do the same thing Mike was doing," said Jacob, "stay aggressive, attack the rim, try to get fouled."
In addition to Dunigan and Jacob's noteworthy low-post efforts, freshman forward E.J. Singler continued his impressive play this season by chipping in eight points, four assists, and a career-high 12 rebounds tonight. Saturday was the first game Singler led the team in rebounding and his 12 boards tied Jeremy Jacob for the most rebounds by a Duck this year. As a unit overall, tonight's performance had Coach Kent particularly excited about what he called "the growing confidence" of his young team.
"There's just a new -- I would say -- air of confidence starting to build with them right now," admitted Kent,
"It's happening at the right time too and hopefully we can continue it -- continue to practice well and play well -- and continue to come together."
Oregon's next opportunity to come together comes Tuesday, December 22 as the Ducks take on Idaho State at McArthur Court. Tip-off is set for 7:00 pm.
Note: Oregon senior guard Tajuan Porter returned to action tonight, going scoreless in 17 minutes of action. Porter was seen walking somewhat gingerly after the game, however Kent gave no indication that it was nothing more than soreness. Porter had been out nursing an ankle sprain that he suffered November 23 in Oregon's 55-68 loss to Montana.
Ducks Avenge Past, Drop Oakland 72-60
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