Oregon Basketball took the opportunity that was in front of them on Thursday night. Following back-to-back road losses at Colorado and Utah last week, the Ducks needed to get back on track.
The opponents this week, Arizona State and Arizona.
The Sun Devils came to Eugene at the bottom of the conference in assists but at the top in turnovers.
Oregon has been playing with key players out with injuries since the first game of the year and found themselves in a first-place tie with both Arizona State and Arizona entering the game Thursday night.
Arizona State won the first half and led by five points after the first 20 minutes. Jackson Shelstad struggled in the first half and was held to no points shooting 0 for 3 from the floor and 0 for 2 from three-point range. There was a pleasant surprise in the lineup from the start.
Nate Bittle, who has been out with an arm injury was in the starting lineup along with N’Faly Dante. Both made a significant difference in the game with Dante cleaning up for points on key Oregon possessions. Bittle is working on getting back some stamina, finishing the game with 7 points.
The second half saw Oregon take control vs Arizona State. Oregon shot better than 50 percent from the floor for the game. In the second half, the Ducks hit 57 percent from three-point range.
Jermaine Couisnard led the Ducks with 14 points. N’Faly Dante finished with 10 points. One big key was Oregon hitting 94 percent from the charity stripe.
Rebounding was the difference. Oregon had the edge on the boards, 35-27. Both the Ducks and Sun Devils finished with 9 turnovers each. While Shelstad had just two points, he was more impressive on defense with 6 rebounds. The freshman also had two assists.
Oregon did an excellent job when it came to fouls. No player on the floor for Oregon had more than two for the game. With the injuries this season, being in first place is quite the accomplishment as we head toward February.
Despite the struggles, this team has found a way to play together and even found a way to play small ball successfully when they needed to. It was enough for an 80-61 win.
The Ducks face a big challenge on Saturday as they welcome a ranked Arizona team to Matthew Knight Arena. Tipoff is set for just after 2:30 p.m. PT on FOX.