Eugene, OR – The Oregon Ducks played host to the defending national champions, and No. 1 team in the country, the Baylor Bears. This marks the first time the Ducks had the nation’s best team in Matthew Knight Arena since its opening in 2011. The Bears arrived riding a 15-game winning streak dating back to the start of the NCAA Tournament last year. After trailing most of the first half, the Bears took control of the game with a 17-2 run mid-way through the second half putting the upset minded Ducks out of reach in a comeback win. James Akinjo and Kendall Brown would combine to score 30 of the team’s 43 points in the second half as Baylor came away with a 78-70 win in front of 7,682 fans.
The Ducks got off to a great start to the game, increasing their lead to 10 points and went into the locker room with a 39-35 lead. De’vion Harmon and Quincy Guerrier made significant contributions on the offensive end. Guerrier, a 6-8 forward, did what he does best by crashing the offensive glass and spotting up for 3s. He scored nine points on 3-for-5 from the field in the half. He has shot and scored much better in the past three contests, averaging 15 points while shooting 50 percent from the field. He was stymied and limited in action for the second half due to foul trouble, which seemed to take him completely out of his rhythm. For the game, he grabbed four rebounds and had two assists, but was held scoreless in the second half, eventually fouling out.
Harmon played one of his best games this season, especially shooting the basketball. He had a game high 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field, including hitting several big shots early on to pace the Ducks to their early lead. At 6-2, the lefty looked to penetrate before stepping back for the mid-range pull-up and was ready to catch and shoot from the perimeter. At times, he was erratic with his decision making and turned the ball over four times while only having one assist.
The Bears stayed within striking distance of Oregon due to the hot hand of Adam Flagler. The 6-3 combo guard had a few open looks early on to help find his rhythm. He went 5-for-6 from the 3-point line to tally 15 points. He would add a second half free throw down the stretch to end the contest with 16 points (5-of-11 FG), to go along with four assists, three rebounds, and two steals. Fellow guard mate, James Akinjo, came out aggressive in the early stages of the second half. The 6-1 point guard makes up for his smaller size with outstanding ball-handling and quickness. He often scored off the bounce in isolation situations, with the ability to cross his opponent over before rising up for the mid-range jumper or getting his defender to back off as if he is going to penetrate. Then, Akinjo would pull up for the 3-point shot. Playing for his third collegiate team (Arizona/Georgetown), Akinjo scored 17 points (6-for-14 FG), dishing out six assists and added two steals.
After a Harmon 3-pointer gave Oregon a 49-46 lead at the 14-minute mark of the second half, the Bears went on a 17-2 run to put the game out of reach. Freshman Kendall Brown, who is considered a lottery selection for the 2022 NBA draft, put on a dunk show for the crowd. The 6-8 forward demonstrated maturity on the road and used his athleticism in transition and cutting to the basket in the half court, scoring with ease at the rim. He scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half on 7-for-8 shooting and pulled down four rebounds. He was limited in action in the first half due to early foul trouble.
The defense for Baylor stepped up in the second half by forcing the Ducks to score mainly in isolation situations, almost eliminating team play and quick ball movement. The Bears show no weaknesses on the defensive end, and were helped on that end by their bigs Jeremy Sochan, a 6-9 freshman, and junior Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. They both have the ability to guard multiple positions, including keeping quick ball handlers in front, and forcing opponents to make mistakes within the paint. The Bears forced nine second half turnovers and held the Ducks to just three assists and 2-for-7 on 3s compared to 6-for-11 in the first half. Sochan tallied eight points (3-for-4 FG), including netting two 3-pointers. Tchamwa Tchatchoua nearly finished with a double-double by scoring 10 points (4-for-5 FG) and grabbing nine rebounds.
In the last two minutes of the game, Oregon made it interesting with a drive and score by Jacob Young, followed by two Will Richardson free throws to cut the lead to six with 1:17 remaining. They stole the ball on an inbounds pass on the next possession, but failed to cut further into the lead. Young showed creativity off the bounce in the late stage of the game by penetrating to the hoop with a few nifty lay-ins. He scored 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field. Richardson, the senior leader, had 16 points (5-for-12 FG), six assists, and five rebounds. However, he had a few costly turnovers late in the contest, and missed on a few good looks at the basket. Baylor took advantage of Oregon’s late miscues, winning their 10th straight win of the season.
Oregon (6-6, 0-2) will stay home to challenge Pepperdine (5-8) on December 21st. Baylor (10-0) will host Alcorn State (1-9) on December 20th.