Men's BasketballSports

Despite lapse in focus, Oregon withstands Long Beach State 94-73 with strong second half

A lot went wrong for Oregon (9-2) in the first half against visiting Long Beach State (6-7). Against an outside-oriented 49ers team, the Ducks didn’t contest the perimeter and gave up a combined 34 points to two role players: Roschon Prince (13) and Travis Hammonds (21).

This lapse in focus resulted in a tightly contested 40-39 Oregon edge at the break.

“We just weren’t focused,” Dwayne Benjamin said. “We just lost the shooters. We went into halftime and really made the adjustment.”

Entering the game, Prince was averaging 7.8 points off the bench, while Hammonds averaged 9.5 points as a starter. The two anchored the 49ers offense, while leading scorer Nick Faust (16.5 points per game average) eventually warmed up in the second half to finish with 12 points and six rebounds.

Hammonds’ eight made three-pointers broke a Matthew Knight Arena record.

“We just lost him: man, zone, it didn’t matter,” Altman said. “Should be able to recognize when someone is getting five, six threes on you in a half. Disappointed there.”

For Oregon, this first half was not only uncharacteristic, but it was detrimental. Holding its hat on the defensive end so far this season, Oregon’s inability to close out on Long Beach States trigger-happy shooters just wasn’t acceptable for its style of play.

In a way, Dana Altman’s prideful defense took a step backwards tonight.

“I was just really disappointed,” Altman said. “Our guys were all worried about the offense and we just let them score. I was yelling at them a little bit to get focused … we weren’t just going to be able to shoot our way out of it.”

If it weren’t for a strong push midway through the second half — much thanks to Chris Boucher who finished with a double-double: 14 points and 10 rebounds — the Ducks could have easily seen another “L” on their non-conference schedule.

“After a slow start, in the second half, I thought the last 18 minutes, we played really hard and really well,” Altman said. “But we weren’t focused for long periods of time, especially in that first half and you can’t do that against good teams.”

Midway through the second half, Boucher got it going. After posting just four points in the first, Boucher came alive with eight crucial points — six of them came at the line — in a five-minute span beginning around the 12-minute mark. He also added four blocks.

“I tried to bring energy,” Boucher said. “I knew that first half, I didn’t play well, so I just tried to help my teammates with rebounds and blocking shots.”

The junior college transfer has shown steady progress through the first 11 games.

It was another all-around performance for the Oregon offense that highlighted six different players in double-figures: Brooks (21), Dorsey (17), Boucher (14), Elgin Cook (13), Casey Benson (11) and Jordan Bell (10).

Validating Altman’s balanced offensive approach, Oregon eventually got it together in the second half, despite looking stagnant and stiff early on.

“It was the whole team,” Altman said. “When you get six guys in double-figures, that’s obviously pretty balanced for you. All the guys did a pretty nice job of moving the ball and making plays.”

A lot of it had to do with the strong play from Brooks and Dorsey, who have consistently led the way for Oregon’s offense through non-conference play.

“Just like with scoring, our leadership is versatile,” Benjamin said. “A lot of different players do it in a lot of different ways. We look for him (Dorsey), especially when he plays the point. I think he did a good job tonight. He’s starting to come along with that.”

The Ducks also went 22-of-24 from the line, making it difficult for Long Beach State to creep back into the game.

“That’s the best we shot free throws and a lot of those were late when they were trying to foul and get back into the game,” Altman said. “Those free throws are important.”

Struggling to close out games earlier in the season, Altman’s now healthier rotation, with more depth, has improved in closing out games.

“Our depth was really the difference,” Altman said.

Next up is a 7-2 Alabama team that already has two wins against top 25 teams — No. 23 Xavier and No. 20 Wichita State.

This will be the last non-conference road test of the season before Oregon opens Pac-12 play with a Civil War matchup in Corvallis on January 3.

Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim

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Hayden Kim

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