Ducks Barely Escape Sun Devils 71-70

It had all the makings for a so-called trap game and Arizona State made sure the Ducks were going to have to play a full 40 minutes to get the win.

The game wasn’t over until the buzzer sounded, but when it did, Oregon managed to come out with a narrow 71-70 victory over the Sun Devils. The Ducks can now officially look towards their biggest game of the regular season on Saturday when No. 5 Arizona comes calling.

First, however, Oregon had to get some offensive rhythm going against Arizona State and it finally happened in the last few minutes of the second half.

As it turns out, that rhythm was Dillon Brooks deciding his team wasn’t going to lose.

The All-American forward scored 12 points in a row in the final three minutes on his way to a 27-point, six-rebound, four-assist performance. Brooks came alive at just the right time because for much of the game, the Ducks weren’t very good offensively.

Although Brooks was making everything in sight in the waning moments, that didn’t rattle the Sun Devils much. Shannon Evans nearly matched Brooks shot for shot as he led his team with 28 points.

Jordan Bell managed a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Tyler Dorsey scored 11 and Dylan Ennis added 10. Tra Holder poured in 17 and Torian Graham added 13 for the visitors from the desert.

Arizona State had a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime with its last possession down 71-68. Payton Pritchard could have iced the contest for the Ducks, but the freshman had a freshman moment in the worst time possible by missing both free throws.

After a timeout, the Sun Devils wanted to shoot a three, but the Ducks extended their defense in order to not allow ASU to get a good look. Instead, the Devils drove the lane and eventually Graham’s rebound basket cut the deficit to one with 2.9 seconds left.

Oregon called timeout to set up an in-bounds play to avoid a foul and hopefully run the clock out. That’s exactly what happened and the 10,000-plus fans inside Matthew Knight Arena could let out a huge sigh of relief.

The win was the 39th straight at MKA which is good for the second longest such streak in the country behind Kansas. The Ducks are now 9-1 in conference play and 20-3 overall with the Wildcats up next. Arizona is 10-0 in league play and 21-2 overall after a sub-par performance in Corvallis that saw them down by three at halftime before coming alive to beat the Beavers 71-54.

This showdown with Arizona could decide the conference champion as this will be the only time the Cats and Ducks face each other in the regular season. It’s scheduled for 1 pm Saturday on ESPN.

   ~Don Smalley