Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) is a national columnist for Rush The Court. He filed this story Sunday evening after the Oregon Ducks and Washington State Cougars played at Friel Court in Pullman, Washington.
Oregon was a desperate team. Forward Mike Moser said it; Dana Altman said it; both were unprompted. After three-plus weeks of bad shooting, nonexistent defense, or both – and being a last-second dunk away from a winless mark in conference – the team once ranked #10 in the nation was destined to be pressing. But the Ducks, thanks especially to an 8-of-10 shooting performance from reserve guard Jason Calliste, managed to get that monkey off their back, blowing out Washington State 71-44 on Sunday in Pullman.
“We desperately needed that. It was a little bit bigger than a monkey,” Altman said after the game. “I think it turned into a gorilla. I felt good for the guys; they were relieved in the locker room. It’s been a long three weeks.” The Ducks only trailed Washington State for a 21-second stretch early in the first half, a change Altman welcomed after his team has spent most of the conference season trying to chase teams down with little success. But Oregon (14-5, 2-5 Pac-12) only pulled away slowly at first, with Calliste’s perfect 6-of-6 shooting in the first half and 14 points eventually leading to a 13-point halftime lead. “Jason really did a tremendous job. He was the difference in the game,” Altman said of Calliste, who finished with 20 points. “That first half, going 6 for 6 he gave us an advantage and then we could play from the lead.” Though Calliste cooled off, the rest of the Ducks took off in the second half, led by all nine of Moser’s points. If it weren’t for a pair of garbage-time three-pointers from reserve Cougars forward Brett Boese, Oregon’s 41-point second-half barrage would have outscored Washington State (8-12, 1-7) for the game.