PORTLAND, Ore. — With eight seconds left in Oregon’s matchup with UConn, the Huskies’ Christian Vital and the Ducks’ Troy Brown Jr. headed in opposite directions.
Vital walked to the free throw line, looking to seal a Huskies’ win, while Brown walked to the Oregon’s bench, the latest victim of a foul out. Brown had just been called for his fifth foul for contesting a rebound Vital secured, and as a result, Vital got two free throws to secure UConn’s inevitable victory.
Similar scenes were all too familiar in Oregon’s 71-63 loss to UConn in the opening round of the PK80 Invitational in Portland on Thursday night. Five players, including three Ducks, fouled out with Brown being the last in a game that featured 53 fouls and 57 free throws
Oregon (4-1) head coach Dana Altman didn’t want to blame the fouls for his team’s effort on Thursday.
“It was not a good effort. I was disappointed from the get-go,” Altman said. “I didn’t like our energy level. I didn’t like our enthusiasm. Our bench wasn’t into it like it should’ve been. Just all-in-all was not a good effort.”
Vital hit one of his two opportunities following Brown’s fifth foul to extend the Huskies’ lead to 69-63. Oregon had one more possession to cut into the lead to have a chance at a miracle comeback, but Payton Pritchard’s deep 3 missed and UConn (4-0) secured the rebound and the win. Pritchard finished with a team-high 14 points but shot 4-of-13 from the field.
That scenario, too, felt familiar. The Ducks struggled offensively down the stretch and connected on only one of their last eight shots. They didn’t make a field goal in the last four minutes of the game. UConn seized the opportunity and finished the game on an 11-1 run over the final three minutes.
“Our first time under the lights and with a little pressure and we sure didn’t handle it very well,” Altman said.
Even without the fouls, it was a game Oregon will soon want to forget. The Ducks turned the ball over 12 times in the second half, which translated to 13 points for UConn. Seven of those turnovers came over the final eight minutes.
Oregon struggled shooting as well. The Ducks shot a measly 33 percent from the field and 21 percent from three. Their offense struggled to find a rhythm as the fouls piled up in the first half. The Ducks entered the second frame with four players in foul trouble while facing a 38-31 deficit.
Oregon fared better in the second half as they took a 53-48 lead with eight minutes remaining. But the Huskies clamped down and ended the game on a 23-10 run.
Elijah Brown (five points, three assists) fouled out with 6:43 left in the game, while MiKyle McIntosh (10 points, 11 rebounds) picked up his fifth foul with twenty seconds remaining. Troy Brown (six points, eight rebounds) followed 13 second later.
“We gotta play better. Like I said, I’m extremely disappointed,” Altman said. “Now it’s just a matter of how we respond. We can’t change it. We didn’t play well. We didn’t play smart. … We gotta go back and re-up and get ready to play tomorrow night.”
Oregon takes on the loser of the DePaul/Michigan State game on Friday night at either 6:30 p.m. or 9 p.m at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris