Look, I’m not gonna lie to you, my work schedule doesn’t afford me the opportunity to watch many mid-week Husky games. As it is, with the way they’ve been scheduled on weekends, it’s been pretty hit or miss. But, yesterday’s game in Eugene had a 6pm start time. I’m usually in bed and asleep between 7 and 8. But, I went ahead and made an exception last night.
The Huskies started conference play 4-0; could they keep the ball rolling in probably the most difficult conference game to date?
Well, I’ll tell ya, the Huskies got off to about as good a start as you can ask for. The Ducks scored the first bucket, then the Huskies ripped off 13 in a row. There was great defense, great shooting, and a crazy dearth of fouling that wasn’t just the refs letting the guys play, but actual disciplined basketball! Insanity!
The Dawgs cooled off a bit, and Oregon picked it up a bit, but we kept them at arm’s length through the rest of the first half. It should’ve been a 10-point lead if not for a ticky-tack foul called on an obvious Duck flop right before halftime. The shooter had 3 free throws to cut our lead to eight, 27-19.
For much of the second half, it was more of the same. There was a little back and forth, but with 8 minutes left, the Huskies held a 51-42 lead, and it was just a matter of not falling apart the rest of the way.
So, of course, the Huskies fell apart.
About 4 minutes later, the Ducks were ahead 52-51, eventually building their lead up to 5 points with two and a half minutes to go. That’s when, thankfully, Jaylen Nowell took over. He scored on a layup and a 3-pointer to tie the game with 89 seconds left in the game. That’s when all hell broke loose.
With the game tied at 56, the Ducks had the ball, but the Dawgs quickly forced a steal and Matisse Thybulle had one man to beat to take the lead. He inexplicably threw a forearm out in front of him – drawing the offensive foul – instead of doing literally anything else. I mean, it was unbelievable! Thybulle does so many things well, but driving the lane is probably his worst skill; he draws SO MANY charging fouls for a guy as athletic and smart as he is.
That gave Oregon the ball back for the final shot. They dribbled the ball down and with 4 seconds left, Nowell came up with a steal and a breakaway. He hurled up a desperation three just inside half-court as another Duck player grazed him, causing his shot to fly over the backboard. With just over a second left on the clock, the refs called a foul, giving Nowell three free throws. He hit all three, the Ducks threw the ensuing inbounds pass all the way across the court and out of bounds, and Thybulle got a couple of garbage free throws to salt it away.
Just a helluva win for the Huskies. Jaylen Nowell – who had 8 of the final 10 Husky points to seal the victory – finished with 20 to go along with 6 rebounds (and was 3/4 from long range). David Crisp finished with 18 (4/8 from three) with 5 assists. And Noah Dickerson had a hard-fought 11 points, with 4 boards, 3 assists, and 2 steals (and only 2 personal fouls!). Thybulle had the roughest night, going 0/4 from the field (all threes), but as per usual he filled up the rest of the stat sheet (7 assists, 5 boards, 3 steals and a block).
Considering we shot 55% from the field (40% from long range), it’s mystifying how we finished with only 61 points. 19 turnovers didn’t help. Also, it seemed like both teams had to use almost all of the shot clock each time down the court. With worse shooting percentages, this could’ve been a game played in the 40-point range.
I still contend the Ducks are a good, well-coached team. But, they are dealing with some injuries and are probably in a transition year. Nevertheless, I think this victory will end up looking pretty good by season’s end, as it wouldn’t shock me to see them rip off a bunch of wins in the second half of the conference season.
The Beavers are up next, tomorrow at 1pm, and in spite of losing both Arizona games on the road last week, are probably the superior Oregon-based team right now, so we might be looking at an even greater challenge. Sweeping the Oregon schools on the road feels like it’s asking a lot, but we’re already halfway there, so why not? The Beavers beat us 2 out of 3 times last year – including in the first round of the Pac-12 Tourney – and our lone victory was at home, by a mere 2 points. So, they MIGHT have our number. I’m not getting my hopes up, but my excitement level is building.