After a first half where the Oregon Ducks didn’t play poorly, but maybe didn’t play to their pace, the second half brought an 11-0 run keyed by transition points and defense as Oregon held off the Illinois Fighting Illini by 71-64 at the Rose Garden on Saturday night.
Oregon (9-0) entered the game leading the country in points per game at 91.4. By halftime on Saturday night, however, it was clear that the Ducks weren’t going to get anywhere near that number. Despite shooting 52 percent from the field, Oregon found itself in a 32-32 tie with the Fighting Illini (9-2) thanks in part to only getting 25 field goal attempts up in the first half.
Shooting only 2-for-9 from 3-point range and unable to get to the line, the Ducks weren’t putting up their usual high-scoring numbers.
For the first few minutes of the second half, Oregon couldn’t find the tempo it desired either. Illinois kept answering any short Oregon spurts and after a Rayvonte Rice layup, the Fighting Illini had a 50-41 lead with 13:15 to go in the game.
Staring their first loss of the season in the face, the Ducks finally found their rhythm and went on a run. Having not forced an Illinois turnover in the second half up to that point, Oregon caused five for the rest of the game while outscoring the Fighting Illini 30-14 over the final 13 minutes. Mike Moser had seven points during the run, including a 3-pointer that put Oregon up four points with 2:37 left. Moser finished with 14, as did teammate Joseph Young.
Oregon shot 16-of-27 (59.3 percent) from the field in the second half, setting up quickly on offense to get ahead of Illinois’ defense and take easy shots. Coming out of time outs, Ducks coach Dana Altman drew up plays that Oregon successfully executed for buckets. Defensively, Oregon’s defense rattled the Fighting Illini and changed the tide of the game.
Part of the effect of Oregon’s improved pace was seen in the scoring late in the game. The Ducks, having scored just 54 points in 33:30 to start the contest (64.5 per 40 minutes), scored 17 points in the final 6:30 (104.6 per 40 minutes).
While Oregon still fell 20 points short of its season average in scoring, the Ducks turned up the tempo in the game at the right time to stay undefeated on the season. The 15th-ranked Ducks next host the Cal-Irvine Anteaters on Tuesday. Illinois plays its traditional non-conference rivalry game next Saturday vs. the Missouri Tigers.