Eugene, OR – The Oregon Ducks squared off against the Arizona State Sun Devils in Pac-12 match-up at Matthew Knight Arena Sunday afternoon. The Ducks looked to remain perfect at home and open up their conference season with a win. The Sun Devils are trying to snap a 5-game losing skid. In the past five games, Arizona State has struggled to find consistency on the offensive end. They have averaged 59.6 points per game in those losses, including losing their conference opener 51-29 to Washington State. The Ducks and 6,130 fans were stunned by a Jay Heath 3-pointer to give the Sun Devils a two point lead with 11.5 seconds remaining in overtime. The Ducks failed to force the game into a second overtime as Will Richardson missed a 15-foot last second jumper to give Arizona State a 69-67 road victory.
The player of the game was hands down, DJ Horne of Arizona State. From the opening tip, he hit an array of difficult shots off the bounce. He was able to get off his shot off with a quick release and utilized picks around the perimeter to gain enough separation to rise up for a jump shot. Horne shot 9-for-18 from the field, including hitting a big 3-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. The 6-1 sophomore, finished with 23 points, six rebounds and three assists. Horne, an Illinois State transfer, was the lift the Sun Devils needed. Arizona State as a team shot 47 percent from the field and 38 percent on 3s for the game.
The Ducks were down 16-6 after a 3-pointer by Horne. Despite scrapping and clawing their way back to a 31-30 lead the Ducks were unable to find any rhythm offensively. At times they looked lost, especially due to the absence of senior forward, Eric Williams Jr. Lead guards De’vion Harmon and Richardson combined to shoot 5-for-26 on field goals and a dismal 2-of-14 from the 3-point line. Harmon ended his night with 11 points (3-for-12 FG), four rebounds, three steals and two assists. Richardson, who averaged 18 plus points per game in his four previous home games, shot 1-of-9 from downtown, scoring eight points. He added seven rebounds and seven assists. The Ducks as a team shot 4-for-22 on 3s.
In the second half, Oregon’s bench came alive led by Rivaldo Soares and Franck Kepnang. Soares was impressive, showing he can elevate above defenders to get his shot off and get out in transition to display his athleticism with a high-flying dunk. The 6-6 junior gave the Ducks a 4-point lead with 1:36 remaining by making a turnaround jumper in the key. He tallied 11 points (5-of-8 FG) and four rebounds. The lead vanished in the final minute with the 3-pointer by Horne to send the game into overtime. Kepnang did his part in overtime to give Oregon another chance to come away with the win, by making a basket in the paint with just over a minute remaining. The Ducks and Kepnang overpowered the undersized Sun Devils in the paint by outscoring the Sun Devils 42-22. The 6-11, 250-pound center, recorded 17 points, a career high on 5-for-8 from the field with four rebounds in 29 minutes.
The Sun Devils heroics came by Boston College transfer Heath, whose 3-pointer sealed the win for Arizona State. The 6-3 sophomore, who led his former team in scoring, shot 5-for-10 from the field, netting four 3-pointers and totaling 14 points for the game. Fifth year senior Kimani Lawrence stepped up to score 13 points (5-9 FG) while adding six rebounds and three assists. Lawrence and Heath stepped up for the Sun Devils, who were without potential NBA draftee Marcus Bagley due to a leg injury. Throughout the contest there was 11 ties and 12 lead changes with Oregon leading throughout most of the second half. In the end, it was the Sun Devils who made the big plays down the stretch.
Oregon (5-4, 0-1) will travel to face Stanford (2-0, 0-0) on December 12th. Arizona State (3-6, 1-1) will host Grand Canyon (8-1, 0-0) on December 9th.