The Oregon men’s basketball team made its free throws, and moved on to play another basketball game.
“We made them when it counted,” junior forward E.J. Singler said.
Twenty-three of them, to be exact, out of 26 attempts. The Ducks were particularly proficient in the second half, making 19 of 21 attempts in defeating Weber State, 68-59, in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational at Matthew Knight Arena Wednesday night.
Oregon (17-17) will face Duquesne of the Atlantic-10 Conference in the second round after the Dukes beat Montana on the Road. The Wildcats finish their season with an 18-14 record.
Joevan Catron extended his Oregon career with a masterful performance, scoring 24 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Catron pounded away in the paint en route to 18 second-half points … and 12-of-13 free throws.
“If you can make free throws, you always in the game,” Catron said.
The Ducks were hard-pressed to play their way out of the game, but all momentum was with Weber State at halftime. Guard Lindsey Hughey beat the buzzer with a three-pointer to give the Wildcats a 29-28 lead at intermission. Oregon was shooting just 33.3 percent from the field but had missed all 11 three-point attempts.
“We just couldn’t get any of those shots to fall. Threes give tremendous energy and we just couldn’t get anything going,” Ducks head coach Dana Altman said. “The crowd had a lot of energy and wanted us to hit those shots but we just couldn’t.”
Weber State was having trouble gaining separation as the second half progressed. Of the Wildcats’ 59 field goal attempts, 31 were from beyond the arc (12 made). Weber State shot 35.6 percent from the field for the game, compared to Oregon’s 41.2 percent mark.
In response to their shooting woes, the Ducks made a simple adjustment.
“We got the ball into Joe (in the post),” Singler said. “He made good plays.
Including the ones that helped put Oregon ahead for good. Catron was fouled on a tough layup by Hughey and sank the free throw to give the Ducks a 42-38 lead with 11:16 remaining, a play that energized the crowd of 4,375. Five minutes later, he converted another tough layup to put Oregon ahead by five.
“The energy and passion shows how important he is to our team,” Altman said. “He did a lot of good things tonight.”
Catron helped keep Weber State an arms’ length away when the threat of the three-pointer was palpable. Wildcats guard Scott Bamforth and forward Kyle Bullinger hit five apiece, scoring 17 and 16 points, respectively. During a two-minute stretch in the second half, Bullinger had all seven of the points Weber State had scored.
“Every time I thought we’d put him away, he’d move out a little farther and hit another three,” Altman said.
Singler filled up the Oregon stat sheet with 16 points (7-7 FTA), four rebounds, three assists, two blocks, two steals and no turnovers. He was the only other Duck in double figures.
Oregon limited turnovers (nine, to Weber State’s 13) and fouls (14, to 22) to compensate for a lack of outside shooting. The Ducks ended up besting the taller Wildcats in the paint, with 30 points to Weber State’s 16.
On to Monday night, where Duquesne will appear in Matthew Knight Arena for a second postseason game. Catron, upon sitting down at the media table, looked at the CBI background banner and the assembled press. His grin flashed as brightly as his fluorescent green Nikes.
The senior leaned over to the junior Singler and whispered, “We got a little taste of the NCAA tourney, right here.”
Catron has no interest in seeing his college basketball career end. He’s still hungry.