by Eric Sloat, DSH basketball correspondent
The Ducks moved to 12-4 overall and 2-1 in conference play with a 59-56 win over Arizona State in MKA. The highlight of the game was Jordan Bell’s record setting blocked shots performance. His 8 for the game tied Blair Rassmussen’s single game mark, made it 59 for the season, shattering Tony Woods’ previous total of 51, with at least 15 games left in the season.
Bell’s record setting performance was easily the highlight of the game; where both teams tried desperately to claim the “winning ugly” prize. In the first 12 minutes of play, the Ducks had more turnovers, 9, than shots attempted, 8. The Ducks had one stretch in the first half when they went more than 6 minutes without scoring, during which 3 different Ducks attempted and missed on four 3 point shots. The Ducks found some rhythm in the first half and led 25-23 at the break.
The second half did not see a scoreless drought to match the first, but neither team could sustain good play for very long. With 3 minutes left, a jumper by Joseph Young gave the Ducks a 53-52 lead. But Arizona State’s Shaquielle McKissic was fouled by Young, made the basket and hit the free throw to put the Sun Devils up 55-53. Bell truly became the hero of the game with consecutive baskets for the Ducks, stretching the lead out to 57-55. Elgin Cook hit a pair of free throws for the final points of the game.
The win was good. Aside from Arizona & Utah, both among the best in the country, the conference appears to be very competitive, so wins at home are vital. But the Ducks have regressed from their win at Illinois. The player movement and passing that was so crisp and sharp has disappeared. Against Arizona, it was understandable. But the Sun Devils didn’t force the Ducks into taking bad shots. The Ducks took care of that on their own. Plays were not run. Screens were seldom set, and if they were, the player setting didn’t roll off it, but just stood in place. Occasionally a player would take it upon himself to take the ball to the basket. But that is so much easier when the team functions together to create a lay-up. The defense looked better than the offense. But there as well the communication is not as good as it was earlier, and Bell, for all his shot blocking, is not a very good on ball defender. In theory, time together should help correct these issues. But the Ducks were better in these areas earlier in the season. Next game for the Ducks is at Washington State, Thursday night.