MBB: Ducks suffocate the Cougars defensively; sets up showdown with No. 3 Utah

Oregon's bench nearly outscored the WSU as a whole, totaling 46 points in the game with three players in double-figures

It’s very difficult to make a statement on the opening day of a four-day tournament. But if you’re Oregon, that’s exactly what you did — opening the Pac-12 tournament with an 84-51 victory over No. 11 Washington State. While the Ducks were expected to win, the 33-point margin of victory was the most in the history of the tournament, and came against the conference’s leading scorer.

“That’s a great accomplishment, but it is only one win,” Oregon’s Paul White said. “Going forward, we have to focus on Utah. We don’t get an NCAA Tournament bid just from beating Washington State by 33… now it is about leaving this game behind us and going forward to apply it to Utah.”

The Ducks will face No. 3 Utah in the quarterfinals, a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals in which Oregon emerged with a 68-66 win. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m. and will air on ESPN.

“They were third in the conference so obviously we are the underdog,” Oregon’s Ehab Amin said. “They’re a really good team, really good shooting team… they have a lot of shooters that can get hot. A couple players that can get 20-plus points… we are just going to get together and execute our game plan.”

Amin was sensational in his tournament debut. A grad transfer from Corpus Christi, he finished with a game-high 17 points, shooting 5-of-7 from the floor and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Miles Norris added 14 points while Will Richardson chipped in 10 points and five assists, helping to Ducks to a 46-15 advantage in bench points.

Louis King was the only Oregon starter in double figures, finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds, despite battling foul trouble for much of the first half. Francis Okoro continued his strong play of late, adding eight points and team-high eight rebounds.

For Oregon, it was all about the defense.

The Ducks have now held five consecutive opponents to under 62 points, first time since the 1984-85 season. In those five games, the Oregon has held opponents to 84 made field goals and forced 81 turnovers.

After Washington State opened the game with a three-pointer, the Ducks reeled off an 18-0 run for a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Oregon took its biggest lead of the half, 33-12, when Okoro hit a layup in between two Cougars en route to the 37-20 advantage at the break.

“Coach has been emphasizing communication on defense and rebounding and how that travels on the road,” Amin said. “The key for us is helping each other out. If somebody messes up, we make up for it by playing hard throughout the possession.”

Oregon started the second half on a 9-0 run and the onslaught was on, leading by as much as 35, 72-37, midway through the half following a Victor Bailey Jr. three-pointer.

Defensively, the Ducks limited Washington State to 5-of-22 (22.7-percent) shooting in the first half. Oregon was so dominant on the interior that the Cougars launched 17 three-pointer sin the first half, knocking down just four of them.

Even as the offense continued to click, the Ducks stayed locked in on the other end, holding Washington State to 16-of-52 (30.8-percent) shooting overall and 7-of-32 (21.9-percent) from beyond the arc.

A bonus for the Ducks is that since the game was such a blowout, no starter played more than 23 minutes — a fact that could play dividends in the upcoming physical matchup expected with Utah. Norris and Bailey led the team with 24 minutes off the bench while Pritchard, Okoro and Richardson each played 23 minutes.

“It does help when you don’t have to play guys for 35 minutes,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We got some nerves out and still had enough energy. We did not play anyone too many minutes so hopefully that will help us tomorrow night.”