Oregon Ducks come together, smash Arizona State 79-51
EUGENE, Ore. — Francis Okoro earned his way into Oregon’s eighth different starting lineup two games ago with sheer effort.
The freshman from Nigeria has since showed off what the Ducks have been seeing on the practice court.
Louis King scored 19 points and Payton Pritchard had 18 as Oregon raced past Arizona State 79-51 on Thursday night.
Okoro’s season-high 10 rebounds helped the Ducks dominate the Sun Devils 44-26 on the glass. ASU came into the game as the Pac-12’s top rebounding team.
“Francis has been practicing so well,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said, “and it’s given him some confidence because he knows he’s working his tail off. I’m really happy. Ten rebounds is a really great effort.”
The 6-foot-9 Okoro had eight rebounds in the second half as the Ducks muscled the bigger Sun Devils inside for a 26-8 edge in points in the paint and a 25-11 margin in rebounds. Oregon also outscored ASU 45-25 over the final 20 minutes.
“We’re not really a very physical team and we’ve got a lot of work to do in the offseason to get our guys bigger,” Altman said. “We’re a little on the skinny side, but Francis gives us a little physicality in there.”
Ehab Amin added 11 points off the bench for the Ducks (16-12, 7-8 Pac-12), who snapped a three-game losing streak. Oregon scored the first 12 points of the second half to lead 46-26 and never allowed the Sun Devils to get closer than 17 points the rest of the way.
“We’ve had good defensive efforts in the first half,” Altman said, “but that was our best one in the second.”
The Ducks also held the conference’s top scoring team to 28 points below its season average. ASU’s previous low was 65 points against Vanderbilt, and the 26 rebounds also were a season low.
“The things that we’ve done the very best at this year just weren’t there,” ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. “We got outrebounded by 18 and that’s an underrated, poor number for us for how we’ve rebounded the entire season.
“In a game where you’re missing as many shots as we were missing, there were plenty of opportunities to rebound the ball, and we didn’t do that, either.”
Remy Martin had 13 points and Rob Edwards 11 to lead the Sun Devils (19-9, 10-6), who had won three in a row. ASU’s top three scorers in Pac-12 play — Luguentz Dort, Martin and Edwards — shot a combined 9 of 34 for the game.
The Sun Devils finished 17 of 53 overall (32.1 percent), their second-worst shooting performance of the season. They also went 3 for 24 from 3-point range (12.5 percent), yet another season low.
Adding to ASU’s misery were 14 turnovers, including eight in the second half.
“Our offense was dysfunctional tonight,” Hurley said, “just in terms of turnovers and the poor shooting percentage.”
Oregon ended the first half up 34-26 thanks to King’s 11 points and its 5-of-13 shooting from 3-point range. The Sun Devils had a 20-14 edge in points in the paint and missed several more chances at the rim, but they also were just 1 of 12 from the arc.
Arizona State’s loss handed Washington the outright Pac-12 regular-season title even though the Huskies lost at California, which snapped a 16-game losing streak. The Sun Devils still have a half-game lead over Oregon State and Utah for second place.
Oregon kept its slim chances for a Pac-12 Tournament bye alive with three games to go. The bigger concern for the Ducks might be avoiding an 8-9 matchup in the first round, with the winner facing champion Washington in the quarterfinals.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Arizona State missed its first nine shots of the second half, including five 3-pointers, and had four turnovers before Dort’s steal and layup made it 46-29 with 12:54 to go.
EYE ON THE PRIZE
Hurley, who was hit with a technical foul midway through the second half, said his focus with three games left in the regular season is Pac-12 Tournament seeding. “I know what wins we have in our pocket and they’re considerably better than most that are in our position,” he said. “We’re 19-9 and that’s a really solid record and we’re well over .500 in our conference, so I think what we’ve done to this point is very good. You’ve got be playing well at this time of the year, so it’s frustrating that we had this effort tonight, but we have another opportunity on Sunday.”
Arizona State: At Oregon State on Sunday.
Oregon: Hosts Arizona on Saturday night.