Eugene, OR- After a disappointing effort in Corvallis three weeks prior, Oregon used a strong first half performance to even the 2018 Civil War series with a 66-57 win over Oregon State. Transfers Elijah Brown and Paul White led the charge, with 29 of the Ducks 41 first half points. The efficiency and manner of which they did this was a welcome change from the duos struggles last week, when Oregon faced USC in a loss and managed to hold on to defeat UCLA. With the Ducks in need of upperclassmen leadership, these two heeded the call in garnering a win that could change the course of Oregon’s season.
Consistency has not been Elijah Brown’s strong suit this season, and this was as much a tale of two halves for him as it was for Oregon in general. Elijah scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half, including starting the game 4-of-4 from the field, including 3 three-pointers, while going 5-of-5 from the line with a little over three minutes left. He also had a few nice passes, including a find to White that gave the Ducks a 41-25 lead at the half.
However, the second half saw Elijah go 0-of-5 from the field. Asked about how Elijah has fit in terms of finding his role, Dana Altman said, “He hasn’t developed as quickly as I hoped. He had a turnover there where we break the press, we got a two-on-one, he slings a one-hand pass, not a good play. A fifth year senior shouldn’t make that play.”
All in all, it was a good game for Brown, as he seemed to be more alert in general, finishing with three assists and claiming four of his six rebounds in the second half when not much else was going for him. He was the lone starter to finish in double figures on the game and showed that when he is hitting shots, it is a huge factor of opening up opportunities for others in the Oregon offense.
White was one such player who benefitted from Oregon State taking account for Elijah Brown, as he felt confident driving, occasionally cutting and had a strong defensive effort against Drew Eubanks of Oregon State. White drew a few charges, and was active close to the basket, finishing some strong plays in traffic. Usually known for stretching the floor, this was a game where White truly played like the big Oregon needs him to be, as he has been relied upon at the “5” spot more often than not.
Payton Pritchard went scoreless in the first 20 minutes, though finished the opening half with five assists to one turnover. When the Ducks were looking stagnant in the second half, it was Pritchard who hit some needed drives, including a high bank and 1 that gave the Ducks a 55-41 lead with 7:42 remaining. Pritchard finished with seven points and even assists to that lone first half turnover, displaying the steady handed leadership Oregon fans now expect. At the post game press conference, he seemed happy about winning by close to double digits, yet slightly perturbed about finishing 3-of-5 from the free throw stripe.
A bright spot for the Beavers was the play of Ethan Thompson in the second half. The younger Thompson brother was very quiet in the first, but showed his diverse ability as a scorer. He had a spin move, dunk and baseline jumper from around 10 feet in pretty close proximity, also making 5-of-6 free throw attempts all in the second half. He is more physically developed than his older brother, Stevie, and while his shooting splits on the year leave a lot to be desired (35.1% FG, 27.9% 3PT), he has shown ability as a playmaker and should make big strides moving forward.
Troy Brown showed a few flashes, though scored all of his six points in the opening stanza. He missed all three of his long-range attempts, with many of them being forced shots under pressure. Troy’s defense definitely stands out, as he was able to switch on to any position and was a large part of holding Oregon State star Tres Tinkle to 11 points on 4-of-13 FG. He had a few brilliant passes, not all leading to assists, but many leading to great looks for teammates. All in all, this was another game of growing pains for Troy, as he can struggle to create for himself, can be loose with the ball in traffic and lacks aggression that Oregon would love for him to have on offense.
In terms of Oregon’s game as a whole, coach Altman pointed to defense being the key even more so than the Ducks sometimes-stagnant offense. He noted that the Ducks scored 17 points off of 17 deflections in the first half, to only two points off of six in the second half. Scoring in transition is a major key for a Ducks offense that struggles to create in the half court, with the 6-of-24 shooting in the second half being a testament to that. Though the Beavers did fight to within 60-52 on a Stevie Thompson lay-up with 3:23 remaining, their going 0-of-8 from distance in the second half prevented them from ever closing the gap any further.
The Oregon schools head to Northern California next week, with Oregon set to play California first while Oregon State heading to Palo Alto to face Stanford on February 1, with the roles reversed on February 3. The Ducks are now 4-4 in Pac-12 play, with a 14-7 record on the year. Oregon State dropped to 11-9 with a 3-5 record in conference. As we inch toward the midpoint of Pac-12 play, we have seen that while both schools have their shortcomings, neither will be an easy out.
This article was written by Michael Visenberg, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can follow Mike on twitter. You can follow NetScouts Basketball on Facebook, or on twitter. We are looking for those interested in our basketball scout certification program. For information contact us and forward your resume.