Minutes before tip of Oregon’s first-round NIT matchup with Rider, the Ducks emerged from their locker room in their fluorescent yellow jerseys to a half-hearted cheer from a maybe quarter-full Matthew Knight Arena. It’s a sight that Oregon has seen few times at home this season, and mainly for preseason scrimmages, not postseason tournament games.
But this was, after all, an NIT game on a Tuesday night, and one can only presume that Duck fans didn’t want to watch Oregon play in a consolation tournament after what was an entirely disappointing season.
Four minutes to tip, MKA not exactly packed pic.twitter.com/LEIYcEyW64
— Gus Morris (@JustGusMorris) March 14, 2018
The 2,327 fans that ended up occupying the 12,000 seat arena witnessed a 99-86 Ducks win over the Broncs (22-10) that sent Oregon to the second round of the NIT to face either Marquette or Harvard. But for about two-and-a-half quarters (all NIT games will be played in quarters this year), Oregon appeared to have no interest in being on the floor. It took a strong second-half run to propel the Ducks (23-12) to victory and keep their season alive for at least one more game.
Freshman V.J. Bailey played a big role in the win. He hit a career-high seven threes en route to a career-high 23 points, 14 of which he scored in the second half. Altman gave Bailey his fair share of credit for the second-half turnaround.
“Once we started clicking we got a few shots down and the energy level went way up. VJ really likes to play when the ball is going in. He did a really nice job shooting the ball and giving us some energy there,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said.
Bailey hit four of his seven threes after the 3:25 mark of the third quarter. His first cut Rider’s lead to 56-55. Payton Pritchard converted a layup on Oregon’s next possession to give the Ducks a 57-56 lead, their first lead since the score was 3-2.
Oregon outscored Rider 42-30 the rest of the way.
“He gives us a spark off the bench and we just try to give it to him every time,” said Kenny Wooten, who recorded his third double-double of the season with 12 points and ten rebounds. “We know he’ll get a good shot so that’s what we try and do when he gets in.”
Oregon needed a second-half spark after its lackadaisical first half performance that had them down 44-36 at halftime. The Ducks made 13 shots on 33 percent shooting and turned the ball over nine times. Rider was equally sloppy, turning the ball over seven times, but shot 52 percent from the field and scored 28 of its 44 first-half points in the paint. The Broncs dominated the paint all night and got 50 of their 86 points from down low.
“They didn’t beat us, they killed us,” Altman said. “That’s probably as many as we’ve given up all year.”
But the second half was a different story. Oregon’s offense sprung to life and the Ducks rode the hot hands of Elijah Brown (16 second-half points, 18 for the game), Pritchard (18 second-half points, 23 for the game), and Bailey to the buzzer. For a team that struggled to hit threes in Vegas last week, the Ducks hit 14 of their 26 attempts with nine makes coming in the second half.
It wasn’t pretty, but Oregon survived to play another game. They’ll face either two seed Marquette or seven seed Harvard, who play each other Wednesday night. If the Ducks draw Marquette, they’ll have to travel over 2,000 miles to play the Golden Eagles. They’ll host Harvard if the Crimson win.
For a game that might have been the last at Matthew Knight this season, at least the home crowd went home happy.
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris
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There are plenty reasons for Oregon to be disappointed with its NIT bid this season. The Ducks are, after all, coming off their first Final Four in almost 80 years. The NIT was not what they had in mind.
But Oregon isn’t looking at the postseason tournament with a glass half empty perspective. The Ducks say they’re fortunate for the opportunity to keep playing, even if that means being in the “second-best” postseason tournament, as MiKyle McIntosh puts it.
The Ducks host Rider (22-9) on Tuesday at Matthew Knight Arena in the first round of the NIT. It’s the first NIT bid for Oregon since 2012, when the Ducks won two games before losing to Washington in the quarterfinals. It’s not the position the Ducks wants to be in, but they’re embracing the opportunity at a few more games, with hopes that a deep run will carry some much-needed momentum into next season.
To do so, they’ll need to get through sixth seed Rider first. The Broncs finished the season 22-9 and won the MAAC conference outright with a 15-3 record, but were upset by Saint Peter’s in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. They’ll now head to Eugene for a chance to play for their own upset.
Oregon, a three seed, isn’t taking the matchup lightly. Rider had four players earn all-conference honors, including Dimencio Vaughn, a redshirt freshman who was named to the first all-conference team after averaging 16.1 points and 6.6 rebound a game this season. As a team, Rider has six players who average over seven points per game and five in double figures. They score about 82 points per game, the 30th best mark in the country.
“[They’ve] got young guys that can really score,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “Athletic, I mean I watched them on film. They are athletic.”
The Ducks don’t have much time to prepare for Rider. Oregon practiced on Monday and will face the Broncs at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
“You gotta kinda scout on the fly,” said McIntosh, who played in the NIT twice during his time with Illinois State.
He added that the experience will be valuable for Oregon’s younger players.
“It’s just something you’ve got to go through,” McIntosh said. “As young players, you still got more games to play.”
McIntosh and Altman both hope that this experience conveys into next season, one where this year’s freshmen will find themselves in bigger roles with more individual responsibility. Altman remembers the benefits firsthand from Oregon’s NIT 2012 appearance. The Ducks followed that season with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 2013.
“It was a big factor there,” Altman said. “It helped us.”
Like the NIT does every so often, there will be several rule changes in place for this year’s tournament. The three-point line will be pushed back, the lanes will be widened, the game will be played in quarters instead of halves, bonus free throws will start at five fouls, and the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds instead of 30 on offensive rebounds.
Altman isn’t concerned with the changes. He said he doesn’t think they’ll affect how the Ducks play, and just wants his team to focus and play hard. As does Payton Pritchard.
“We know this is our last couple games this year,” Pritchard said. “So might as well give it everything we got, play hard, make something happen and try to win the NIT.”
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris
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The mat room, hidden in the back hallways of the University of Oregon Student Recreation Center, smells of sweat and dirty socks.
It’s 6 p.m. on a Tuesday evening and Katie Kelly sits on the mat. She puts on her wrestling shoes and ties her long, wavy hair into a braid.
With her hair secured, Kelly gets up and joins the men as they warm up for UO wrestling club practice.
“None of this would have been possible without Katie working to establish the team,” said Payton Bruni, a member of the club wrestling team.
Kelly is not just the only woman at practice tonight, she is the only woman in the club. In fact, she is the president of the club and one of the main reasons the wrestling club is rejuvenated and competing again.
When she was in eighth grade, Kelly joined her middle school’s wrestling team. She quickly became passionate about the sport and its physicality.
“I’m super uncoordinated, in terms of hand-eye coordination,” Kelly said. “Ball sports have never been my forte. But I was a rambunctious kid, and so it was really nice having that kind of physical outlet.”
In both middle school and high school, she found strength in being the only woman on her team. She competed and practiced against men in the 142 and 152-pound weight classes. In her five years wrestling before college, she only competed against women four times in dual meets — outside of all-girl tournaments like the Girls State Wrestling Tournament.
As an eighth grader she finished second in Girls State, taking home the first-place title her senior year of high school.
“I think being on the team with guys made me a much better wrestler,” Kelly said. “I think that benefitted me as a wrestler, because when you are wrestling bigger, more talented people, you get better. Being on a team with all guys, when I went to go wrestle another girl it was way easier.”
She joined the UO wrestling club during her sophomore year at Oregon. The small group of wrestlers mainly just “rolled around” at a local gym and wrestled one another, Kelly said. She realized that in order to have the opportunity to compete, the club would need to reorganize. So, she took it upon herself to step up and become the club’s president.
“No one else was going to do it,” Kelly said. “There wasn’t going to be a club if I didn’t do it.”
Thanks to Kelly, the wrestling club has competed in a handful of tournaments so far this year.
“This year, it feels more real,” club treasurer Tony Munoz said. “Last year it just felt like a bunch of people just getting together, but now it feels like a team.”
As the club’s first female president, Kelly is laying the foundation for something much bigger than any weight class competitor.
“The end goal is bringing back a wrestling team to the University of Oregon,” Kelly said. “Which won’t happen in the time that I am here. But the end goal is not to have my name on a plaque, the end goal is for the team to come back.”
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni
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A winter weather advisory warning was issued for South Willamette Valley at 8:08 p.m. Tuesday night and will remain in effect until 7 a.m. on Wednesday.
The National Weather Service predicts that a possible one to three inches of snow could accumulate overnight, with temperatures at a low of 29 degrees. There is a 90 percent chance of precipitation.
University of Oregon spokesperson Tobin Klinger said that the weather will be assessed around 4 a.m. on Wednesday.
“If [there’s] significant snow on campus, there will be a decision made shortly thereafter,” Klinger said.
If UO decides to cancel school, UO Alert will send texts and/or emails to notify students. They will also post online and notify The Emerald.
If school is not canceled, UO will not send out any alerts or notices.
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A new policy forbidding student-teacher relationships was created by the University Senate’s Committee on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.
The new policy, approved on Feb. 1, states student-teacher relationships pose a “conflict of interest” and “abuse of power.” The policy is temporary and the committee is working on a permanent policy to be set in place.
According to Tobin Klinger, UO spokesman, the previous relationship policy was a state board of education policy that was last updated in 1997. When the university gained independent governance in 2014, the state policy was migrated over.
“There was a lot of ambiguous language that made it very difficult to understand the policy and take it seriously,” said Sonja Boos, member of the Committee on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.
This temporary policy only stands for six months, leaving the committee until the summer to create a permanent policy, according to Boos.
The Committee on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence is reaching out to students for input through town hall meetings in the coming months.
The committee itself has been talking about changing the policy for years, according to Boos.
President Schill requested the policy be replaced last Fall, which expedited the process.
Missy Matella, assistant general council, worked to create the temporary policy that the Committee on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence later approved.
“I think that we are in this national debate, in this moment of reckoning, where the culture is really changing,” Boos said, “The university needs to be in line with other institutions.”
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After missing her first of two free throws down 90-89, Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu knew she was not going to let her team down. She nailed the second shot, and when the game went to overtime, her renewed competitive fire proved too much for the UCLA. Her 7 points in OT helped Oregon shut the door on the Bruins.
“We had to fight adversity and stay composed, and I think we did,” Ionescu said. “We answered that test well.”
It took all of No. 8 Oregon’s offensive firepower and defensive grit to beat No. 10 UCLA 101-94 on Monday night at Matthew Knight Arena. A crowd of over 7,000 was on the scene to watch the top-10 matchup and honor the two seniors, Lexi Bando and Justine Hall.
Satou Sabally and Maite Cazorla provided much of the offense in the regulation period. Sabally arguably had one of her best games of the season, scoring her first seven attempts from three-point range — she finished 7-of-9 from behind the arc.
Cazorla was a spark whenever Oregon needed a lift of offense. Her 24-point performance earned her entry into Oregon’s 1000-point club, joining Ruthy Hebard and Ionescu who accomplished the same feat last week.
“I thought Maite was huge tonight. That is not easy going agsint the quickest of those guards,” head coach Kelly Graves said. “She showed great resilience.”
Senior guard Jordin Canada was as good as advertised. The senior guard hit multiple and-1 layups and deep three-pointers to keep Oregon’s defense on its toes.
“Jordin Canada and Billings, that’s an amazingly talented team,” Graves said. “Especially Jordin, … she single-handedly wrecked our defense.”
With 7:26 left in the third quarter, Oregon held a 19-point lead. The team could do no wrong, but eventually after enough laps in defensive rotations, UCLA fought its way back.
“We talked about that at halftime,” Ionescu said. “We knew they were going to come back and punch us and we just had to be able to punch back and take it.”
After making her 33 straight field goals, an NCAA record, Hebard finally missed after starting the night 3-for-3. The sophomore forward finished with 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while also collecting 11 rebounds.
For the final 6:18 of the fourth quarter, the Bruins did not allow an Oregon field goal. Cazorla went down hard after getting blocked on a layup and needed support while limping to the bench. Then UCLA hit a 3-pointer to take its first lead of the game 90-87 with 2:18 to go. Ionescu kept the team in the game by driving to the hoop and getting fouled multiple times.
Right away, both teams knew the ball would be firmly in Ionescu’s hands. She stole the ball right away and hit a jumper to get the crowd roaring. Cazorla checked back into the game with 90 seconds left, and with the score tied at 94, the ball wound up in Sabally’s hands. She hit a fadeaway jumper to give Oregon the lead. UCLA would not score again.
The Ducks will finish out the regular season in Arizona, playing Arizona State on Friday and Arizona on Sunday to conclude Pac-12 play.
Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august
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Coming into this weekend’s fixtures, Oregon women’s basketball had Monday night’s game against UCLA locked in its sights.
Win or lose, there would be emotions after the game: The team would honor seniors Lexi Bando and Justine Hall during Senior Day ceremonies. Head coach Kelly Graves said it was arguably the biggest game in the Ducks’ history. With a national TV audience watching on ESPN2, future NCAA seedings and the conference title on the line, Graves wasn’t wrong.
“I wish I drank, I’d already grab a beer,” Graves said following Oregon’s 101-94 nail-biting overtime win over UCLA on Monday night.
With the win, the Ducks now sit alone at the top of the conference and have a Pac-12 regular season title within reach. Almost a year removed from going 8-10 in conference play with a freshman-heavy team that made a run to the Elite Eight, this year’s Ducks now have the chance to finish 16-2 in the Pac-12.
“Nobody saw that run coming but I think it just gave us a ton of confidence, especially these two,” Graves said. “And I’ve always felt that players improve the most between their freshmen and sophomore years — they certainly did that. I think it was the perfect storm last year and it just helped propel us.”
On Thursday, No. 9 Oregon, No. 7 UCLA and No. 14 Stanford were all tied at the top of the Pac-12 standings. Then the Bruins fell at No. 15 Oregon State while the Cardinal fell to Cal on Friday. With wins against USC on Friday and UCLA on Monday, the Ducks would grab sole possession of the top of the Pac-12 standings.
Oregon pulled it off with a close double-overtime win against USC on Friday followed by the Monday night win over the Bruins in front of 7,098 fans.
“It was electric. We needed them tonight,” Graves said.” I thought down the stretch they gave us a huge lift especially late in the game and into overtime. I heard them. There was a couple times I think sound actually had feel. That’s pretty neat.”
That feeling might return to Matthew Knight Arena if the Ducks earn the right to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in just over a month’s time.
“This was a great showcase, you guys,” Graves said. “A great national showcase for our fans, our program, for this team.”
The Ducks, now No. 8 in the AP Poll, knew they needed to beat the No. 10 Bruins to get themselves perched atop the standings. They’ve done that.
They still have to beat Arizona State and Arizona on the road, who can both easily play the role of spoiler. But Oregon has a found groove.
Oregon will still travel to Seattle a week from Thursday for the Pac-12 Tournament. There are still two games to play but the Ducks can taste the Pac-12 regular season title, which Oregon last won back when it was still the Pac-10 in 2000.
Now, 18 years later, that title is on track to return.
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow
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