Entering Sunday evening, the Ducks were in need of a victory. After tough losses to Arizona State and Washington in back-to-back games, Oregon was in need of a spark to get to back to its winning ways.
Kenny Wooten answered.
Wooten finished 20 points off the bench, as Oregon defeated Washington State 78-58. Wooten, who is still recovering from a broken jaw suffered a month ago and forced to wear a mask, was phenomenal in his 26 minutes, finishing 8-of-10 from the floor with four rebounds and three blocked shots.
“I thought he was a lot more aggressive than what he’s been,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said of Wooten. “I thought the guys did a good job of finding him — he did a good job in the zone looking for open spots.”
Louis King added a game-high 22 points, shooting 8-of-11 from the floor and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Paul White, who’s still battling an ankle injury, added 18 points and six rebounds, shooting 7-for-11 from the field and 3-of-5 from deep.
The first half was one Oregon (12-8, 3-4 Pac-12) would like to forget.
Despite trailing 39-35 at the break, the Ducks were lucky to be that close considering they allowed Washington State to shoot 77.3-percent (17-of-22) from the field. Robert Franks, CJ Elleby and Jeff Pollard combined for 35 points on 15-of-17 shooting.
“Franks is one of the best players in the league,” Altman said.
“He’s a talented young man… he can go and get a basket,” Altman added of Elleby.
Oregon hung around by forcing seven turnovers while White, King and Wooten combined for 23 points.
The Ducks came out much more focused defensively in the second half, limiting the Cougars to 33.3-percent (8-of-24) shooting in the second half. Franks, Elleby and Pollard were held to nine points while no Cougar had more than two buckets in the half.
“I thought our defensive intensity really picked up,” Altman said. “They’re (Washington State) a really good offensive team, they average almost 80 points per game.”
The momentum changed in Oregon’s favor on back-to-back possessions with 14 minutes left in the game.
A steal by the Ducks ended up in Miles Norris’s hands, who brought the ball up court before finding a cutting King for a massive dunk that ignited the Matthew Knight Arena crowd. Oregon then forced a miss on the other end before Ehab Amin found King cutting once again, who finished the layup with a pretty euro-step — giving the Ducks a 48-44 lead and prompting a Cougar timeout.
The Ducks put the game away for good when it ended the game on a 23-6 run over the final 10 minutes.
Using its full court press, Oregon was able to spend the game up and forced Washington State (8-12, 1-6 Pac-12) into turnovers and bad shots. Offensively, the Ducks did a good job of attacking the Cougars zone with Will Richardson and Pritchard facilitating the offense by getting deep into the zone before dropoff passes for easy buckets.
As a whole, Oregon outscored the Cougars 43-19 in the second half, shooting 61.5-percent (16-for-26) from the field and 50-percent (6-of-12) from the beyond the arc.
“Our guys did a really good job moving the ball in the second half… we had 16 buckets with 13 assists,” Altman said.
Altman elected to change things up prior to tipoff, going with Richardson as the starting point guard and bumping Pritchard to shooting guard (Victor Bailey Jr. came off the bench). Not only did this allow Pritchard to play off the ball more with less stress, it allowed Richardson to find his place in the offense and dictate tempo and pace. The result was a combined 14 assists and eight steals with zero turnovers for the starting backcourt.
Oregon travels to the mountain schools next week, facing off with Utah (11-8, 5-2 Pac-12) on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.