After an emotional halftime speech by senior Arsalan Kazemi the Oregon Ducks bounced back from being down eight at the half for a 73-64 victory over visiting Utah. Oregon improves to 19-5 and 8-3 in the Pac-12 while Utah falls to 10-13 and 2-9.
Kazemi gets a big block in the second half.
“It was Arsalan, he was screaming, ‘This is our team, we can’t let coach get mad at us. Can’t let the coaches talk. This is our team and we have to step up as leaders’”, said freshman Damyean Dotson of Kazemi's pep talk before the second half.
Altman said the second half by Kazemi was the best half he’d seen him play at Oregon this season and called his performance ‘unbelievable.’
“Coach asked me to be more of a leader and I realized that was a time for it,” Kazemi said of his halftime speech to the Ducks.
Using senior Arsalan Kazemi at center and rotating Carlos Emory and E.J. Singler at power forward the Ducks quickly got Oregon back into the game using a smaller lineup for most of the second half.
Singler led Oregon and all players with 21 points thanks to 12-of-13 shooting from the free throw line. Singler also finished with eight rebounds, two steals, and one block. Kazemi recorded his 51st career double-double with 11 points, 14 rebounds, four steals, and three blocks.
“It’s been a long 10 days and it really feels good to get a win,” said Dana Altman post game. “The second half we really got the floor opened up and the guys got out and ran. The press, we didn’t get a lot of steals but it changed the rhythm of the game.”
For their fifth straight game without starting point guard Dominic Artis the Ducks once again struggled from the floor shooting just 39-percent from the field on 21-of-53 shooting. The second half however Oregon was able to attack the basket for better looks or shoot free throws - where Oregon made 22-of-30 in the second half.
“Although we didn’t shoot a good percentage it was good to see the ball go through the net a little, but really happy for the guys,” Altman continued. “We’ve played really good defense, we’ve played really hard defensively throughout this period, but offensively we never got anything going. To score 51 in the second half was really what we needed.”
Trailing Utah 30-24 following a jumper from Damyean Dotson the Ducks got a much needed spark when Utah's Cedric Martin was called for a technical foul just 2:35 into the second half. Martin and Kazemi got tangled under Utah's hoop and Martin threw Kazemi to the ground drawing the technical foul.
"He grabbed me from my hip, it was a wrestling move...we watch a lot of wrestling in Iran and that was what it was," said Kazemi of the foul.
Singler sank two free throws and the Ducks cut the Utah lead to 30-28. Singler would then later tie the game at 43-43 with a jumper with 10:48 remaining. Oregon would take the lead for good when Kazemi made one of two free throws to make it 44-43 with 10:09 left.
Dotson kept the Ducks in the game scoring nine points early in the second half while finishing the game with 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting.
“It wasn’t just me thinking I had to take over, it was me knowing I had to take over because no one was contributing and I felt like we had to come together,” said Dotson. “It starts with me. With me being who I am and what my role is on the team I just had to step up in the second half because I haven’t been lately.”
Oregon’s late game scoring issues crept up once again as the Ducks failed to make a field goal in the final 3:46 of the game. That said Oregon did score their last 15 points via the free throw line when Utah started fouling with over two minutes to play.
Utah was led by senior Jason Washburn’s 20 points and seven rebounds. Senior Jarred DeBois added 15 points and five assists before fouling out.
Despite playing a smaller lineup for most of the second half Oregon dominated the rebounding edge with 41 total rebounds and 19 offensive boards. That led to 24 second chance points for the Ducks. Utah finished with just 19 total rebounds.
Utah led at the half 30-22.
• Oregon (8-3) is alone in second place in the Pac-12 at 8-3, half a game behind No. 7 Arizona (8-2)
• The Ducks have won 80 games since 2009, tying the 1943-47 squad for most wins in a four-season span.
• E.J. Singler joins Freddie Jones (81), Joevan Catron (81), Luke Jackson (80) and Dick Wilkins (80) in the UO 80-win club.
• UO is 9-1 when wearing white uniforms.
• Oregon is 9-9 all-time against Utah. The Utes haven’t beaten Oregon since the 2008 season.
• Oregon outrebounded Utah 41-19 and is now 18-3 when outrebounding its opponent.
• Arsalan Kazemi recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Kazemi has 51 career double-doubles, the second highest total of any active player.
• E.J. Singler scored over 20 points for the second time this season, coming one point short of his season-high of 22.
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