The season didn't get off to the start he or anyone else really expected. With an arthritic knee that has been less than cooperative since before the season even began, getting in condition and finding a groove has been a chore for Oregon senior forward E.J. Singler. Yet, since conference play started, the Medford (Ore.) native has seemingly turned a corner. After turning in a 15-point, 9-rebound performance against Oregon State last Sunday, Singler's performance Thursday night versus No. 4 Arizona at Matthew Knight Arena was nothing short of sensational. His 14 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists were critical in the Ducks' 70-66 win over the Wildcats, marking not only the biggest win for the Ducks during the Altman era, but the biggest win for Singler in his career at Oregon.
Singler's 14 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists were instrumental in the Ducks' 70-66 upset victory over No. 4 Arizona.
"I'd say so," said Singler when asked if it was the biggest win of his career. "I mean, it was the No. 4 team [in the country], so I would say it's the biggest win."
At halftime, Singler was on pace to record a triple-double, leading the Ducks with seven points, six rebounds, six assists as Oregon held a 41-30 advantage over Arizona. While Arizona mounted a spirited second half charge to cut the Oregon lead to as few as three late in the second half, Singler remained clutch for his team, hitting a three and converting four clutch free throws down the stretch to keep the relentless Wildcats at arms length.
"I think he's gaining more and more confidence," said Oregon head coach Dana Altman of Singler. "He works really hard at his game. The last two days, the gym's empty and he's still out there shooting. You can't fault his effort ever. Sometimes he tries too hard, which gets him in trouble...but you never fault his effort because he wants to compete and he cares greatly about our team, our university and our basketball program."
Singler agreed with Altman's comment regarding confidence. As he addressed members of the media following the win over the Wildcats, Singler admitted that he has become increasingly comfortable in recent weeks, with the cumbersome knee feeling as good as it has perhaps all season.
"I think I'm coming back," said Singler of his play as of late. "That's just getting acquainted and meshing with our guys. I think our team tonight was really, really good, really unselfish, and we just really made plays for a lot of different people. When we play like that, the game's easy, and we've got to continue to do that."
Guarding against overconfidence is the next mission for this team as a very confident and dangerous Arizona State Sun Devil squad (13-2 overall, 2-0 conference) comes to Matthew Knight Arena Sunday ready to play the role of weekend spoiler. For Singler, it's about staying focused on the team's overall goal of chasing a Pac-12 regular season championship while also understanding that there is still room for marked improvement.
"It's about knowing what our goals are," said Singler of avoiding a letdown against Arizona State. "You can't take any game for granted because every game counts. If we have that goal in mind, I think we can come out with that emotion in every game."
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