With No. 16 Oregon (17-2, 6-0) playing as the hunted instead of the hunter the Ducks showed some vulnerability and put themselves in a hole down 39-29 at half against Washington State (10-9, 1-5). After a pep talk from Oregon head coach Dana Altman the Ducks stormed back in the second half to win 68-61.
Singler scored 19 points and led Oregon's come from behind victory over Washington State.
Senior E.J. Singler led Oregon with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting while adding five assists, two steals, one block and two rebounds in 30 minutes of play. Senior Arsalan Kazemi added 16 points and seven rebounds while getting four steals in his first start since hurting his head six games ago. Damyean Dotson added 11 points and nine rebounds.
“It was really a game of two halves,” said a somewhat displeased Dana Altman post game. “They really took it to us in the first half. Out rebounded us, out fought us. They won almost every stat. The 10 turnovers which led to 18 points really put us in a whole.”
Oregon went into the half trailing 36-26 while committing 10 turnovers which led to 18 points for the Cougars. It also didn’t help Oregon’s defense was sluggish and allowed the Cougars to hit 7-of-13 shots from three.
“The threes were a lot tougher than they were in the first half,” continued Altman. We were a step slow and obviously we weren't prepared to play and that's my fault…We told them we were upset [at halftime]. Disappointed. We got a group of seniors that if they want to do something special they got to get their team ready. We talked about that. We talked about the stats that we were down on. There was plenty to talk about. Really disappointed in that first half, but again we bounced back and found a way.”
Oregon struggled with their offense and defense in the second half but came out clicking on both ends in the second half. In the second half’s first five minutes the Ducks went on a 7-0 run to get within 39-36. After a Washington State timeout Carlos Emory got a steal at mid-court and threw down a strong dunk to pull Oregon within 38-39.
“We knew we weren't playing up to our best,” said E.J. Singler. [Coach] kind of got after us at halftime knowing we were better than that. We wanted to get up and make plays on defense first.”
The Ducks held WSU to just 35-percent from the field in the second half, and most importantly not allowing a single three to be made on 11 Cougar attempts. Oregon also forced Washington State into eight second half turnovers which led to nine points for Oregon.
The Cougars however wouldn’t go down without a fight and quickly snatched the momentum that Oregon built up early in the second half. Following Emory’s dunk Dexter Kernich-Drew got a layup and Brock Motum stole a pass and then scored a layup in transition while getting fouled. Motum hit the and-one free throw and Oregon was quickly down 44-38 in a matter of 23 seconds.
That is when Singler took over scoring 10 straight points for the Ducks. Singler hit a corner jumper off an in-bound, a three from the wing, another three from the opposite wing, and then two free throws. When you looked up Oregon led 48-46 with 11:45 left in the game.
“I just let it come to me. I try not to force it,” said Singler of his big run. “Some teammates got me going with some passes and that's when coach goes to running plays for me.”
Dominic Artis missed a three from straight on and Washington State’s Royce Woolridge got a layup to give WSU a 53-52 lead. It was the final lead for the Cougars as Oregon finished the game on a 16-8 run.
“We focused on the defensive end and all the good things happened for us...if you look at the stat-sheet they couldn't make any threes in the second half,” said Arsalan Kazemi. “Defensive energy is the biggest part of it. Our caches came after us at half time that we couldn't play like that....we have to play with good energy from the begging to the end...”
Emory woke up a quiet crowd with one of the best dunks of the year to push Oregon’s lead to 59-55 with just 5:24 left to play. After a pair of DeVonte Lacy free throws at the 4:48 mark the Cougars would go scoreless for 3 minutes. When Mike Ladd made one of two free throws with 1:11 left the game was all but over with Oregon leading 64-58. Dominic Artis and Daymean Dotson both made a pair of free throws to seal the win.
“You maybe get one of those a year, or two a year. You get those double-digit deficits and you think you are coming back into the game you are making a mistake,” said Altman.