Photo by Jolene Guzman
Western Oregon University guard Darius Lubom drives past defenders during the first of half of the Wolves exhibition game against the Oregon Ducks on Thursday.
As of Wednesday, November 7, 2018
EUGENE — If Western Oregon University’s men’s basketball team was supposed to be over matched against No. 14 Oregon Ducks in Thursday’s exhibition game at Matthew Knight Arena, the guys on the WOU roster didn’t get the message.
The Wolves came out swinging from tipoff, and took advantage of an often sloppy Oregon team that was playing with a short roster due to injuries. WOU limited its own turnovers to four versus 12 for the Ducks in the first half, and recorded four steals as the team scrapped for extra possessions.
“All the players came out with pretty good energy. Everybody was pretty motivated to go out there and prove a lot of people wrong,” said freshman WOU guard Darius Lubom. “We kept energy all the way through the first half.”
WOU trailed by two points at the half, 27-29, and may have had a better showing except for 30 percent shooting, including going 4-18 from the three-point line.
After the break, the Ducks were cleaner on offense and increased its lead to 48-32 early in the second half. The Wolves fought their way back into striking distance a few times but could never reclaim the lead.
The Ducks shot 61 percent from the field to WOU’s 34 percent in a second half that featured strong play from a pair of Oregon’s freshmen, starting center Bol Bol and reserve forward Francis Okoro.
The Wolves never gave up on the game, though, chasing down loose balls through the final seconds. In the end, the score was 77-58, a performance that senior guard Brandell Evans seemed pleased with.
“I think it gives us confidence. They are supposed to be pre-season ranked No. 14 in the nation at the D1 level and we came out and really battled with them. The second half, their size and athleticism took over,” Evans said. “So to come into their crib and only lose by 19, it gives us confidence, especially for the young guys.”
Evans contributed eight points and five rebounds in 17 minutes while Lubom was the only WOU player to score in double figures at 13 and four rebounds in 35 minutes. Kaleb Warner added seven points and five rebounds and Buster Souza scored six points. The team shot 32 percent in the game, grabbed 33 rebounds and nine steals in the outing.
Lubom said the team’s showing was a good way to start the season after losing experience from last year’s team, which advanced to Division II West Regional Championship game. The Wolves just missed advancing to the Elite Eight in a close loss to Cal Baptist in that regional championship game.
This year, the Wolves were voted to take third in the conference in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s preseason poll.
“We did lose like nine seniors, so a lot of people expected us to drop off,” Lubom said. “Going out there and battling with them kind of bumped everybody’s spirit after all nine seniors left. It just gives us a little more confidence than what everybody came in with.”