It might have been a bit closer than Oregon would have liked it, but the No. 15 Ducks improved to 6-0 with a 78-73 victory over Fresno State Monday night inside Matthew Knight Arena.
Dillon Brooks led four Ducks in double figures with 21 points and 10 rebounds to give the Bulldogs their first setback on the young season. Elgin Cook and Chris Boucher each scored 14 and Tyler Dorsey added 12 for Oregon. Boucher also blocked five shots on the inside.
The Ducks celebrated being the highest-ranked Pac-12 team with a solid first half and took a 37-25 halftime lead.
“I thought in the first half we played very well and very hard except for our 11 turnovers. But defensively, I thought out activity was good,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman.
Oregon was cruising in the second half and their lead was all the way to 18 mid-way through, but Fresno State never threw in the towel. The Bulldogs managed to finally get their offense together and went on a 17-2 run to pull within four points at 72-68 with just 1:53 remaining to put the scare into the Ducks.
But thankfully for Oregon, the Bulldogs never got any closer in a game that got a bit chippy towards the end. Fresno State was hit with a technical foul for rough play and both teams were issued flagrant fouls during the course of the contest.
In the last two minutes, Oregon kept Fresno State at bay by knocking down free throws and turning up the defensive pressure. The Ducks coaxed 18 Bulldog turnovers, but committed 17 of their own.
“Our ball handling has got to improve tremendously. “We’ve got a lot of things to work on, but we’ve definitely made progress, but I’d like to finish games stronger,” Altman said. “That’s the third time now that we’ve had a double digit lead and let the game come back.”
Hitting from the charity stripe was a common theme for the home team as they managed to nail 26-of-36 from the line. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, made just 12 free throws, a difference of 14 points between the two teams.
Altman emphasized during practice leading up to the game that if they stopped Fresno State’s leading scorer, Marvelle Harris, that it would go a long way to winning the game. For the most part, Oregon was successful.
Harris came into the contest averaging 20 points per game and he did wind up with 18 for the night to lead the Bulldogs, but 16 of his 18 came in the last five minutes of the game.
Paul Watson scored 11 with both Torren Jones and Karachi Edo adding 10 points each. Jones also brought down 11 boards for a double-double. Edo just missed a double-double of his own with nine rebounds.
“Obviously, you never know how you’re going to start games. You like to think you’re going to start most better than we did tonight, but we fought some adversity,” Bulldog coach Rodney Terry said. “We let our offense affect our defense in the first seven minutes of the game. We actually got a few really good stops and lost the ball. Then we thought we needed to get it back too quick on offense. Then we really settled in and started playing.”
If Fresno State started the game similar to how it finished, it would have been the Bulldogs walking out of Matthew Knight as happy campers, not the Ducks.
Now at 6-0, Oregon will now venture out on the road for the first time to take on Nevada-Las Vegas on Friday. The Runnin’ Rebels are 6-1 this season. The game is scheduled for 8 pm on ESPN2.
~ Don Smalley
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