For the first time in awhile Mac Court was loud and rockin' like it should be. Fans in all three levels of the historic building, and not just the rowdy members of the Pit Crew, were standing and cheering for their Oregon Ducks-something that hasn't happened much this season.
In thrilling fashion, the Oregon men's basketball team (11-9, 3-5 Pac-10) snapped its five-game losing streak in a 71-66 overtime win against the UCLA Bruins (9-11, 4-4 Pac-10) Thursday night.
The Ducks started out with a 3-0 lead but the Bruins were able to quickly knock down some outside shots against Oregon's zone defense. Not only did UCLA have open looks from the perimeter but they were on fire early and led by as many as 13 in the first half.
But two big plays underneath the basket from by Michael Dunigan and Jeremy Jacob cut the lead to seven. Two back-to-back deep three-pointers by Tajuan Porter put the Ducks within one point and caused Mac Court to erupt. Although a questionable foul by Porter with one second left in the first half quieted the crowd and sent UCLA to the free-throw line where they made both shots to take a three-point lead.
Oregon started the second half on a made jumper by Jamil Wilson. The Ducks finally regained the lead on another big 3-pointer by Porter and led by as many as seven before the Bruins tied it up at the end of regulation on a 3-pointer by Michael Roll.
In overtime Matt Humphrey, who was already having a pretty stellar game, took control making back-to-back 3-pointers. E.J. Singler, who had played very few minutes throughout the game, made some big plays, including a stellar tip-in and layup off an assist from Malcolm Armstead. Singler also made two crucial free throws in the remaining seconds of overtime to secure the win. Humphrey and Singler accounted for all 16 points the Ducks had in overtime.
The Ducks made some changes, most notably in their lineup and defense. They switched to a zone defense to try and avoid letting the opponent get easy inside shots.
"This team did a good job," Coach Ernie Kent said. "This season is about adjustments. Over the course of the last two days to put in a new zone defense and to rely on our old match-up zone defense I thought they did an incredible job of allowing us to coach and make some changes-lineup-wise, defense-wise, offense-wise-and be able to grasp it."
The increased intensity on defense allowed the Ducks to be more productive offensively.
Oregon held advantages in field-goal percentage (43%-39%), three-point percentage (42%-30%), and free-throw percentage (71%-54%). The Ducks also out-rebounded the Bruins 41-37.
Porter and Humphrey both led the team in points, with 15 each. Porter was 4-for-8 from beyond the arc and had six rebounds.
In the previous games that Oregon lost, Porter could never find an offensive rhythm and was cold from the field. But against the Bruins, it was a different story.
"I got going then my teammates fed off of me so they got going," Porter said.
Porter not only got his teammates going but he got the Mac Court faithful up out of their seats multiple times with 3-pointers that were one or two steps back from the line. "To see those fans come back and support us gave (the team) a great adrenaline rush," he said.
Porter said younger players like Singler and Wilson haven't seen the real Mac Court yet. "I don't think that was even the real Mac Court tonight," he said.
Humphrey, in just his second game back after recovering from knee surgery, scored all of his points in the latter portion of the game. Eight of his 15 points came in overtime. He was 5-for-8 from the field including 3-for-5 from three-point range.
"It's a breakthrough game," Humphrey said. "I've worked really hard getting back from an injury. It's been a tough, tough year for me but (tonight's game) is showing me that my hard work is paying off."
Humphrey said the team had a tough week of practice but "guys came to work every single day."
Jeremy Jacob chipped in 11 points on the night and pulled down five rebounds. Singler had eight points and five rebounds. Dunigan contributed eight points and six rebounds but missed some of the second half and all of the overtime due to muscle cramps.
Armstead only had five points but he dished out 12 assists, had four steals and grabbed six boards.
"Malcolm made some unbelievable passes to open teammates," Porter said.
According to Kent, Armstead had about 30 ccs of fluid drained out of one his knees Thursday morning.
"For him to be able to come into a game and play like he didï¿½was tremendous," Kent said. "I thought Malcolm had a superb game."
In addition to changing it up on the floor, the Ducks also changed up their pre-game ritual. According to Kent, back in the "old days" the Pit Crew used to go down to the Ducks locker room before the game and get the players pumped up.
"We brought the Pit Crew into our locker room (tonight)," Kent said. "I thought they were outstanding, singing the Oregon fight song and getting these guys out the door with a tremendous amount of energy. That's a tradition we'll do from here on out."
Looking forward the Ducks take on the USC Trojans Saturday at 3 p.m.
Note: According to Kent, LeKendric Longmire was not on the Oregon bench Thursday night because of academic reasons. He is still eligible to play but "he's got things he needs to do and he can join us again when he gets them done."