TEMPE, Ariz. — Oregon has fought through pauses, long breaks between games and practices without its full roster.
The Ducks may finally be rounding a corner and could turn themselves into a contender in the Pac-12 race.
Eugene Omoruyi had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Chris Duarte added 18 points and Oregon outlasted shorthanded Arizona State 75-64 on Thursday night.
The Ducks (11-4, 6-3 Pac-12) shook off some early offensive struggles with a big run late in the first half and stretched the lead to 16 early in the second to keep themselves in the Pac-12 race.
“It’s exciting because we’ve got our whole team now and if we can avoid any more pauses, I think we can get better and better and better,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “We’ve got a lot of upside if we can keep everyone going.”
The Sun Devils (6-9, 3-6) were missing two key players, lost their leading scorer early in the second half and had a hard time finding an offensive rhythm after returning from their second COVID-19 pause.
Arizona State used a late run to pull within seven before running out of steam to lose for the seventh time in nine games. Remy Martin led the Sun Devils with 30 points, but hobbled leading scorer Josh Christopher (back and leg) had no points in 17 minutes.
“To be that close is a statement to just how hard these kids are playing despite a ton of adversity,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said.
Both teams are trying to get back on track after twice being hit with COVID-19 issues.
The Ducks played one game in three weeks before returning to split against the Pac-12’s Washington schools last week.
The Sun Devils were back after their second coronavirus pause cost them two games, but were missing wing Marcus Bagley and forward Chris Osten to ankle injuries. Forward Taeshon Cherry also missed his eighth straight game due to personal reasons, leaving the Sun Devils with eight scholarship players.
The players who were on the floor for Arizona State struggled to get shots to fall. The Sun Devils had a scoreless drought of more than seven minutes and went 3 for 14 from 3 in the first half.
The Ducks missed numerous shots at the rim early before going on an 11-0 run to go up 11. Duarte was the catalyst after missing the previous game with an ankle injury, scoring 18 points to give Oregon a 35-28 halftime lead.
“We feel good,” said Oregon’s LJ Figueroa, who had 16 points. “When everyone’s touching the ball, we’re playing easy.”
The Ducks hit six of their first eight shots to open the second half, stretching the lead to 49-33. Christopher, who took a big fall late in the first half, went to the bench after two minutes and didn’t return.
The Sun Devils still showed some late life, using a 13-3 run to pull within 65-58. They never got any closer, walking off their home floor with another difficult loss.
Oregon got a big lift from Duarte’s return in the first half and held off the Sun Devils’ comeback attempt to win for the second time in three games since returning from its second COVID-19 pause.
Arizona State has yet to play a game with its full roster this season and the absences are taking a toll in what was supposed to be a season of contending for the Pac-12 title.
Hurley called Wednesday’s practice the best 40 minutes the Sun Devils have had this season.
It came with a price.
In the closing minutes, Christopher was kicked on the lower left, Osten rolled his ankle and Bagley rolled his. Arizona State hadn’t gone through Oregon’s press when the players went down, so Hurley and assistant coach Anthony Coleman had to work on the scout team.
“I don’t think that’s going to get us ready for something they do very well,” Hurley said. “That was the situation we were thrusted in.”
Duarte, Oregon’s leading scorer at 17.8 points per game, did not play against Washington on Saturday after spraining his ankle against Washington State. The senior guard was able to test his ankle on Wednesday and had a good warmup before the game, so Altman had him in the starting lineup.
Duarte picked up where he left off before the injury, hitting 7 of 12 shots and 4 of 8 from 3.
Oregon plays at Arizona on Saturday.
Arizona State hosts Oregon State Sunday.