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Ducks' close win over Sun Devils a wake up call before playing Wildcats

EUGENE, Oregon ¬— Following last week’s 74-65 loss to Colorado, which ended Oregon’s 17-game winning streak, Jordan Bell argued that the defeat could be good for the Ducks, hoping that it might serve as a wake-up call.

It appears, however, that Oregon (20-3, 9-1 Pac-12) hit the snooze button rather than getting up for Thursday night’s game against Arizona State.

A 71-70 victory over the Sun Devils (10-13, 3-7 Pac-12) still puts a W in the win column, but it will leave head coach Dana Altman tossing and turning until Saturday’s marquee matchup against No. 5 Arizona.

“We didn’t play very well tonight, so that will never get you to bed too early,” said Altman. “But hey, I don’t sleep that well anyway.”

The game was neck-and-neck throughout the second half, with the Ducks taking an eight-point lead, their largest of the game, with just over 11 minutes left. The Sun Devils kept chipping away, and went up 60-59 after a three from Torian Graham with 3:37 remaining.

From there, Oregon’s Dillon Brooks switched into another gear, scoring the last 12 points for Oregon and leading the Ducks out of the “trap game” with a victory. Brooks finished with 27 points for Oregon, including 21 in the second half.

“I’ve been playing with Dillon for three years now — I’ve seen him take over games like this,” said Jordan Bell, who notched his fifth career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. “I told him to just keep being aggressive, and we knew that [Graham] couldn’t guard him.”

Graham, who is ASU’s leading scorer and second in the Pac-12 with 18.7 points per game, finished with 13 points, but it was Shannon Evans who kept the Sun Devils in the game. Evans had a game-high 28 points on 10-for-16 shooting and 3-for-6 from downtown.

A lackluster first half left Oregon playing catch-up in the second frame, although their 28-25 halftime deficit could have been much worse had ASU produced the high-powered offense they’ve been known for so far this year.

Oregon shot 1-for-10 from three-point range in the first half, and 35% from the field, while the Sun Devils weren’t much better at 31% from the field and 28% from downtown.

“We knew our offense would come, we just had to keep getting stops and making plays for our teammates,” said Brooks.

The Ducks brought a new energy into the second half, and they made three of their first four three-point attempts out of the break.

With the biggest game of the season on the horizon, it is easy to overlook a Thursday night tip against an unranked team, especially after losing a week prior. With just eight games remaining on the schedule, every game is crucial as the Ducks fight for the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.

Saturday’s showdown with the Wildcats will play a huge part in that.

“We are the underdogs — we’re going to have to play with a chip on our shoulder,” said Brooks on the matchup with Arizona. “We have to approach every game like we’re the underdogs. We went into Colorado as though we were on top, and look what happened.”

Several things will be on the line Saturday, whether it be a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, or defending Oregon’s 39-game home winning streak.

After a wake-up call loss to Colorado, the Ducks rolled out of bed just in time for the biggest game of their season on Saturday.

Let’s hope they woke up ready to play.

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