Undersized against taller and longer Southern California, No. 12 Oregon needed something — or someone — to counter the disadvantage inside Thursday night.
The Ducks found it in junior college transfer Chris Duarte, who exploded for 30 points and added 11 rebounds and a Matthew Knight Arena-record eight steals. Duarte became the first Division I player with at least 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals since Alvin Young of Niagara almost 21 years ago.
Oregon (16-4, 5-2 Pac-12) seeks a second scorer to help do-everything guard Payton Pritchard, a conference player of the year candidate, and different players have stepped up. Thursday in the Ducks’ 79-70 double overtime win over USC, it was Duarte.
“His steals were huge,” Ducks coach Dana Altman said. “He did a great job flying around, making some defensive plays. He was the difference in the game with those eight steals, no doubt about it.”
The Ducks got an extra day, as opposed to the typical Pac-12 schedule, before the Sunday home game against UCLA (10-9, 3-3). With several starters playing heavy minutes on Thursday and in a season with five overtime games — two of those back-to-back — they could use it.
“We will be back (Friday). We don’t have time to rest,” Duarte told Duck Territory.
Indeed, they were back to work, and they won’t take a full day off.
“I am glad we don’t play till Sunday. Usually, with our depth, the day off doesn’t bother me with one day,” Altman told Duck Territory. “We usually can bounce back. … I think it’ll be good to really have a light day (Friday), practice hard on Saturday and then come back at (2 o’clock) on Sunday.”
The Bruins appear to have found some consistency, posting two consecutive wins after losing six of their previous seven. UCLA won a tight game 62-58 at Oregon State on Thursday despite losing a 13-point, second-half lead.
Chris Smith’s 15 points led the Bruins. Jaime Jaquez Jr. added 14 points and four steals, and Jalen Hill made four free throws in the final 10 seconds to preserve the win.
The Bruins held the Beavers to 15 made shots on 41 attempts, and UCLA came up with 13 steals to just four for Oregon State.
“We executed down the stretch, and that’s what you’ve got to do in close games,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said. “You’ve got to make free throws, and you’ve got to get the ball inbounds versus pressure.”
Smith said the Bruins hope their defensive effort carries over to Eugene, Ore., on Sunday.
Cronin said his team isn’t looking far ahead as he builds a culture with the program.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Cronin said. “As frustrated as I get, I have to go home and tell myself these guys haven’t played for me before.
“This is all new to them, what we’re trying to do. … We don’t talk about anything else other than each guy trying to improve and become a better player so we can become a better team.”
–Field Level Media