It’s not unusual for great offensive players to recognize they’ve found a zone or rhythm which allows them to score with ease. It’s much less common for a player to find a zone on the defensive end. Kenny Wooten found that rare defensive zone against Stanford on Sunday night, earning with a season-high seven blocks.
“He set an unbelievable tone in the first ten minutes,” head coach Dana Altman said. “He really set the tone for the game and made them hesitant offensively.”
Thanks to its stout defense, Oregon (15-9, 6-5 Pac-12) swept the visiting Bay Area schools after beating Stanford (12-11, 5-6 Pac-12) 69-46. The Ducks held the Cardinal to 27 percent shooting, and KZ Okpala, third in the Pac-12 in points per game at 17.7, finished with 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting.
“Defense is always the top priority,” Victory Bailey Jr. said. “Coach has emphasized that from the beginning of the year. I think for us, locking in on the defensive end is going to take us over the top.”
Payton Pritchard scored 15 on his game-high 20 points in the second half. While the Ducks’ offense was far from perfect, they outplayed Stanford, especially in the second half. Stanford only had three assists for the entire game.
The first half was filled with odd moments. Though Oregon led 30-20, it felt like the Ducks could have been up by more. Stanford couldn’t buy a bucket, and through the first five minutes the team shot 0-of-12, missing on everything from open 3s to multiple putback attempts right underneath the rim. Stanford finally scored eight minutes into the game on a layup from Josh Sharma. Oregon was barely ahead, up 6-2 on 33 percent shooting.
“I knew they wanted to penetrate,” Wooten said. “And I feel like after a couple of blocks, they started looking for another way to score.”
Stanford struggled to find any way to score, going 1-of-22 before Oscar Da Silva made the team’s second field goal on a fastbreak dunk, making it a 18-4 game. The Cardinal couldn’t score from the free throw line either, and they shot just six shots from the foul line in the first half.
Once the scrappy first half was over, both teams started playing more efficient basketball in the second. Pritchard controlled the tempo, driving to the basket with ease and making three consecutive layups.
“Straight line drives, got to the rim, finished tough shots,” Altman said of Pritchard’s play. “I thought he did a great job.”
Stanford switched to a 3-2 zone after Pritchard’s 3-pointer made it a 46-31 game. The zone initially forced a shot-clock violation.
To counter the zone, Bailey and Louis King spaced the floor with their outside shooting. Bailey, who has had shooting struggles this year, was productive in his 20 minutes. He hit timely 3s and finished with 11 points. King finished with 16 points. Oregon slowly pulled away, taking a 54-38 lead with seven minutes remaining.
Next Saturday, the Ducks will travel to Corvallis to take on Oregon State for the second time this season.
Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august