Oregon (2-0) trailed its early-season opponent from about the start of the game until the 12-minute mark when Mike Moser nailed a shot from deep that, coincidentally, broke a 12-all tie.
They never again trailed, and though star Western Carolina guard Trey Sumler (recently reactivated after an alleged assault) would challenge that lead, a career night for Joseph Young put the Catamounts away, 107-83.
“Offensively, in the second half, we shot the ball extremely well,” head coach Dana Altman said. “Defensively, this team’s got a long way to go.”
Young scored 36, Moser scored 26 and Elgin Cook added half of his 16 from the line. In sum, the Ducks shot 47 free throws and sank 35 of them, a 74.5 percent clip.
In fact, were Young to not explode out of the intermission to start the second half with 17 of Oregon’s first 25 second half points, Western Carolina’s 34 fouls would’ve probably been the story.
But considering Young put up 28 points in the second half alone? This game was about him. Not only was 36 a career high for the Houston transfer — and the most by a Duck since Tajuan Porter hung up 38 on Portland State in 2006 — it was a Matthew Knight Arena record for points scored in the young arena.
“It just kind of came to me, I hit that first three … that’s what really opened the game up there.” Young said about his second half.
Where the Ducks’ lead wavered before halftime, and the intermission saw the Ducks walk away with just a 2-point lead, Oregon was unchallenged in the second frame. Once double-digits were earned, the Catamounts only reached within ten points three more times.
After Young’s barrage, all everyone could do was watch. He added four quick points to a half-opening three, and capped off the run with a barn-burning and-one that put fire in his eyes that you could see from press row.
“His eyes get like that, we just kinda start cheerleading,” Moser said.
Helping the Ducks out in the second half was a tighter half offensively. After senior Johnathan Loyd hit the bench with two early fouls, backup point guard Jason Castille took up a lot of time on the floor and gave up three first-half turnovers. In the second half, Young and Loyd took control and the team gave up just four freebies.
“We had Jason out there too long,” Altman said. “We asked him to handle the ball for a long time.”
The new NCAA rules this year have had a demonstrable effect on rate and method of play, and especially with this team and Mr. Young. In post-game comments, Young said he liked the new ability to attack and get to the line. With the game’s 53 fouls, the junior guard shot 15 of 16 from the line. The hot start only encouraged Oregon’s players as they created several pretty layup attempts.
“When we hit a lot of threes, the floor got spread, and then driving lanes became even better,” Altman said.
The coach talked lightly after the game about his team’s ability to rebound from last week’s international trip to South Korea for last Friday’s game against Georgetown. He didn’t see jet lag as a very big factor for his players this week.
“We’re fine, those guys are young. It doesn’t bother them,” Altman said.
When asked how the Crete, Neb., native himself was handling the time change, he answered simply.
“Oh well, I’m fine.”
Oregon continues its season-opening home stand with Tuesday and Sunday games next week against Utah Valley and San Francisco. The meeting with the USF next Sunday will be the first meeting between the two schools since the Ducks bounced the Dons in June.