Entering into the game with the Oregon Ducks and the Arizona State Sun Devils on Sunday night there was talk of a possible upset. With the Pac-12 Conference-leading Ducks in town and the Sun Devils coming off a convincing victory over Oregon State on Thursday night people in Tempe had reason to hope for a sweep of the Oregon schools.
This game was contentious from the start. The crowd was into it and after a slow start by the Sun Devils, the team got into it. For both teams it was an opportunity to build on something. For the Ducks it would mean a fourth straight win and a sweep of the Arizona schools. For Arizona State it would be a second straight win, a sweep of the Oregon schools, and keeping their slim postseason hopes alive.
Oregon got out to a quick 11-0 lead and for the time being the air was slowly being drained out of the building. The Sun Devils came out slow and I started to wonder if the Sun Devils just came to think that they were not in the same class as Oregon, which they may not be, but they needed to put up a fight at least. After several shots at the rim were missed, the Devils started hitting some shots from beyond the three point arch and the Ducks started to cool down a bit. The Sun Devils were also helped by a string of Oregon turnovers that provided points for them.
Once the Devils got the game tied at 20 with seven minutes left in the half that gave the rowdy Wells Fargo crowd something to go crazy over. The teams would trade lead changes until the half and the Ducks ended up leading 37-36 at halftime. The shooting wasn’t too bad for either team as the Sun Devils hit 47% from the field and Oregon hit 42% from the field. However, the stat that brought ASU back into the game was their ability to hit 47% from the three point line.
The questions going into the half to me were pretty simple. Could Oregon respond to the fight that the Sun Devils were putting up? On the other side of the court, could Arizona State keep this high level of play up?
Sun Devil Head Coach Bobby Hurley is a fiery type of coach and is gaining that reputation among referees as well, but his team is certainly taking on the persona of its coach. The Devils had to come out and show Oregon that they were not just going to lay down for them.
That was the thought anyways by the Sun Devils I am sure.
Teams come out in the second half and the Ducks got out quick. They scored 5 straight points and the Sun Devils were having problems taking care of the ball, but were still hanging around only down 51-44 with 16 minutes left to play. I know that is a lot of time left in the game, but anything can happen in college basketball.
The thought of an upset was just a thought though. The Ducks started hitting some shots, getting to the rim, and the Sun Devils started wilting under the bright lights. The Devils started to show why they are near the bottom of the Pac-12 Conference and conversely, the Ducks started showing why they are leading the conference at this point.
Bobby Hurley who had been barking all game at the officials finally got a technical foul in a veiled attempt at firing up his team. It didn’t help fire anybody up. If anything, it made the Ducks play harder, tougher, and more determined to put away the Sun Devils.
Don’t get me wrong, the Sun Devils are a scrappy group of players, but Oregon showed that they are just better at this point than the Devils. Oregon is more athletic, have better ball handlers, and have better shooters. One player for Oregon that caught my eye was their 6’10” forward, Chris Boucher ,who just about had a triple-double for the Ducks. He had a career high 26 points (four 3-pointers), 10 rebounds, and seven blocks. The kid can play and made his presence known throughout the contest. Keep your eye on this player as the season unfolds.
Can Oregon go deep in the NCAA Tournament? They don’t have a good post game right now. Their “bigs” are more hybrid forwards than centers and prefer to stay outside and shoot. That is not going to win championships, but they can certainly screw up the brackets of many people in March. I see them as a round of 16 team at best. It depends on the draw they get as well, but the Pac-12 is a middle of the road basketball conference this season.
In the end, the Sun Devils don’t have what the Ducks do and it’s going to take Bobby Hurley and his staff a couple of years to turn this around in Tempe. The fans have to be patient with him, but Hurley also has to learn to control his temper better because I could see it coming back to bite the team at crucial times in the future. The final score was 91-74 for the Oregon Ducks and that is the appropriate difference in the two programs at this point.