Oregon seniors shine one last time at Matthew Knight Arena
EUGENE Ore. — 462 days ago, Chris Boucher played his first regular-season game at Matthew Knight Arena. He finished with 10 points, five rebounds and five blocks in an 80-52 victory over Jackson State. Since then, he has averaged 12.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game while playing deep in the woods. But there is one number that will always be more memorable than any other statistic when all is said and done.
It isn’t a point total or some other individual accolade, but rather a badge of honor worn proudly by each member of this Oregon Ducks team.
42 consecutive victories at home. The longest home-stand in the nation, and a second straight year with a perfect record at MKA.
The Ducks solidified this accomplishment on Saturday with a 101-73 victory over the Colorado Buffaloes on senior night, blowing the game wide-open in the second half after a fiercely competitive opening 17 minutes.
Now, Boucher, along with fellow seniors Dylan Ennis and Charlie Noebel, will end their college careers without ever losing a game at home. There can’t be too many players in the nation who can say the same.
“It doesn’t matter what team — Arizona or Colorado — I can say that I never lost here, and it feels really good to say that,” said Boucher, who finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.
After scoring just one point in the first half, Boucher erupted for 17 in the second, going 6-for-7 from the field and 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. The senior fouled out with 7:48 left in the game, and walked off the court to a standing ovation from the ardent crowd.
“Definitely something I will remember forever,” said Boucher on the ovation. “I wasn’t expecting a big game like that, but it went our way and I was happy, even though I fouled out, that we had a great game and got a win.”
Ennis, who transferred from Villanova two years ago and sat out the majority of the 2015-16 season with an injury, made sure to leave his imprint in his final showing before the home crowd. Ennis finished with 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including a spark that ignited Oregon’s blowout victory late in the first half.
With the Buffs ahead 25-23 with 9:45 left in the first, Ennis put together a flurry of 13 points in the next seven minutes of the half to push the Ducks ahead 39-32 with 2:00 remaining. Oregon ended the half on a 10-0 run and went into the break with a 45-32 lead. In a span of 11 minutes from the first to the second half, Oregon went on a 29-2.
“That was just all about getting stops,” said Ennis. “We played defense, and that’s what we do best. We’re going to find a way to score, and we have so many guys that can put the ball on the rim, but when we get stops, then we’re that team that everyone thinks like ‘Man, these guys are tough.’”
Tough indeed. Oregon outscored the Buffs 78-48 in the final 29 minutes of play, and held Colorado to 43% (26-60) shooting on the night, while going 34-for-59 (57%) from the field themselves. Dillon Brooks led all scorers with 23 points, going 5-for-8 from three-point range.
Performances like that are sure to pay dividends come March.
“Confidence hasn’t been a problem with these guys,” said Head Coach Dana Altman. “They think pretty highly of themselves, so we don’t have to worry about confidence. We just have to take that energy on the road. When we played Colorado last time it wasn’t a matter of confidence, they just out-worked us.”
With three games left on the schedule before the Pac-12 Tournament, all of which are on the road, Altman will have to gear up his players to get used to the lack of fan support that has carried the Ducks to two years of continued success. But for one last afternoon, there was nothing wrong with soaking in the atmosphere and showing appreciation for the seniors.
“You spend so much time with these guys, and it is emotional,” said Altman. “I’ve been fortunate to do this for a long time, and it’s the relationships you build, and hopefully you keep, that mean the most. Nothing makes an old coach feel better than when an old player calls them. It’s a great group of seniors, and we’ll miss them — it’s going to be a hard group to replace.”