Elijah Brown breaks through, has his best game as a Duck
It has taken awhile for Elijah Brown to find his footing in Oregon’s offense. The New Mexico graduate transfer, who led the Lobos in scoring in each of his two seasons in the Mountain West Conference, scored only 16 points and shot a mere 24 percent from the field in his first two games as a Duck.
Head coach Dana Altman chalked Brown’s struggles up to “overthinking.” Brown played more of a score-first role at New Mexico but had to become a team-oriented player for the Ducks.
The transition has not been smooth, but Brown showed major progress toward finding his role on Friday night. Brown finished with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting (3-of-4 from 3-point range), with six assists and two steals in his 24 minutes of play in Oregon’s 114-56 demolition of Alabama State at Matthew Knight Arena. He scored five points in the first half and 10 in the second. His one missed shot came on his first attempt of the second half.
“I thought Elijah played really good tonight,” Altman said. “I thought he really set a much better tone for us.”
Brown is supposed to be one of Oregon’s go-to scorers this year. He established himself as one during his time at New Mexico. While his first two performances were disappointing, he only needed some time to get back on track.
“I think I was pressing a little too much those first two games,” Brown said. “I came out and kind of let the excitement get to me.”
So what was different for him on Friday night?
“I think tonight I kind of let things come to me,” he said. “I tried to get teammates involved but when I was open, I felt more comfortable shooting it.”
According to both Altman and Brown, that has been the biggest key to getting Brown to fit into Oregon’s schemes. Altman still wants Brown to look to score but is also challenging him to make more plays for his teammates, a role that Brown is still adjusting to.
But what really impressed Altman on Friday night was Brown’s activity on defense. The 6-foot-4 guard led the team in deflections in the first half with seven. He also finished the game with two steals, tied with Keith Smith for the second-most on the team.
One of those steals resulted in one of the plays of the night, a ferocious, two-handed fast-break dunk in the second half that left his teammates in shock.
— Oregon Basketball (@OregonMBB) November 18, 2017
They greeted him with high-fives and jokes about his age a minute later when he returned to the bench.
“They were all asking me if I was ok, if I had to go back to the training room, get my knees rubbed out or whatever it was,” Brown, who will turn 23 in February, said with a laugh. “They were just extremely surprised. That’s what they were all telling me: ‘I didn’t know you could do that.'”
Altman said that the dunk surprised him somewhat too. Brown is apparently working through a minor but nagging injury and hasn’t shown off that kind of athleticism in practice. But he’s getting healthier, and starting to find his place on this Oregon team at the same time.
Good thing, too. Oregon will need Brown to be that complete player if they want any chance at repeating last year’s historic success.
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris
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