PULLMAN – When Oregon’s Chris Boucher made his first shot during Saturday’s 85-66 win at Washington State, the arena public address announcer mistakenly referred to him as “Charles.”
Rest assured, that mistake will never be made again. The PA man has said his name enough times to have it seared into memory.
With an early lead and the No. 15 Ducks’ best player sent to the locker room, the table was set for WSU to pull the upset and continue its hot start to conference play.
But when a team is as stacked with talent as UO, even the backups can carry the team.
Boucher, a forward, came off the bench to lead the Ducks in a sizzling second half in front of 3,335 fans at Beasley Coliseum.
“They’ve got so many weapons that you’ve got to pay attention to detail both mentally and physically,” said coach Ernie Kent. “The second half, they just wore us down. Our third game in seven days, I felt like our legs just left us, our mental sharpness left us, our rotations weren’t there on defense, and that’s too good of a team to give open looks to, open rebounds and things of that nature.”
The final score indicates an easy game for the Ducks. It was, for the final 10 minutes or so. That’s when Boucher spent his time alternating dunks and 3-pointers, completing three of the former in the game and making 6 of 9 attempts at the latter.
Boucher scored 29 points, added eight rebounds and chipped in three blocks as well. The lanky 6-foot-10 junior’s athleticism and superlative reach were on display during one sequence in the second half in which the Cougars were trying to inbound the ball.
On consecutive plays, Boucher batted the ball back out of bounds, blowing up WSU’s designed play before the Cougars could get it started.
Boucher’s domination was really a delayed continuation of Dillon Brooks’ brilliance, which ended thanks to Brooks’ foolishness.
Brooks scored seven point in the first seven minutes. Then, while trying to secure a rebound in the first half, he felt to floor. Upon impact, his left leg remained stationary and his right leg swung upward and landed at its apparently intended target: Josh Hawkinson’s groin.
Officials reviewed the play and assessed Brooks a flagrant foul 2, thereby ejecting him from the rest of the game.
“Dillon, everything I’ve seen of him, is a first-class guy,” Kent said. “Good guy and everything else. I don’t know if that’s the heat of the moment or what. But I really have not seen the play yet to make that kind of judgment on it.”
The play also resulted in free throws for Hawkinson, who hit both to put the Cougars up 18-15 with 13:20 left in the half. The Cougars led by as much as six points over the Ducks, who return nearly everyone from last year’s Elite Eight team, and the teams were tied at 37 at halftime.
“Brooks plays with a certain fire and passion in him and I think he brings a lot of energy himself and to the rest of the team,” Hawkinson said. “When he left, we knew we had to capitalize and that it was a window of opportunity. For the rest of the first half I think we did capitalize, and it was tied at halftime. But then we didn’t come out with the same intensity that we had in the first half.”
WSU was unable to match UO’s energy in the second half, and had no answer for Boucher, so the Ducks gradually pulled away from the Cougars.
The loss ends a four-game winning streak for WSU (9-6, 2-1 Pac-12), which had not lost since Dec. 10.
UO (15-2, 4-0) began the year ranked No. 5, but fell drastically after losses to Baylor and Georgetown. Baylor, unranked when it beat the Ducks, is now ranked No. 2 overall.
Ike Iroegbu led the Cougars with 12 points, and has 1,007 for his career. He and Hawkinson are the first WSU teammates to both have 1,000 points since Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver.
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