Men's basketball

Illinois falls to unbeaten Oregon

2013-12-14T22:45:00Z 2013-12-15T00:25:07Z Illinois falls to unbeaten OregonAnne M. Peterson AP Sports Writer nwitimes.com
December 14, 2013 10:45 pm  • 

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's Mike Moser was happy to be home.

The senior transfer from UNLV played at Portland's Grant High School. He easily had the loudest cheering section Saturday night when he had 14 points and nine rebounds in the 15th-ranked Ducks' 71-64 victory over Illinois at the Moda Center, home of the NBA's Trail Blazers.

"It felt incredible — and even 10 times better because we won the game," Moser said.

Joseph Young, another transfer who came from Houston, added 14 points as Oregon improved to 9-0 in the school's best start since it won its first 13 games of the 2006-07 season.

"There's still some things we want to work on, but the undefeated part is real good," Moser said.

Tracy Abrams and Rayvonte Rice had 16 points apiece for the Illini (9-2). A transfer from Drake, Rice has scored in double figures in each of his games with Illinois.

The Illini had not lost to the Ducks in their four previous meetings.

"We came into this game with the mindset we were going to win," Abrams said.

Illinois led by as many as nine points in the second half, but Oregon rallied to a 58-54 advantage on Moser's layup and Young's short jumper.

The Illini responded with five consecutive points, retaking the lead on Nnanna Egwu's 3-pointer with 3:37 to go. The Ducks then took over for good.

Elgin Cook's layup put Oregon back in front, and Moser added a 3-pointer to make it 63-59. Johnathan Loyd's long jumper with 30 seconds to go helped the Ducks hold on for the victory.

Illinois coach John Groce said his team played well for the first 32 minutes.

"I just want us to be aggressive on both ends of the floor," he said. "And I think we got a little tentative with 8 minutes to go."

The Ducks were coming off a 115-105 overtime victory at Mississippi last Sunday. Oregon went into the game ranked fourth in the nation with an average of 91.4 points per game. The matchup with Illinois tested its defense.

The Illini's only other loss this season was a 67-64 decision against Georgia Tech on Dec. 3. Illinois bounced back with wins against Auburn and Dartmouth.

The game was tied at 32 at halftime. Abrams had 10 points at the break.

The Illini opened a 50-41 lead on Rice's layup, but Oregon's Jason Caliste made a jumper to tie it at 54 with 7:02 left.

"The pendulum really swung there the last 10 minutes," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "And a lot of that was because of our defensive energy."

Moser, who helped lead Grant to an Oregon state title in 2008, averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds at UNLV as a sophomore but was hampered by injury as a junior. The 6-foot-8 forward completed a final course for his undergraduate degree at UNLV, clearing the way for him to play for the Ducks this season.

He's returned to form with Oregon and is averaging 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds through the team's first nine games.

Young leads the Ducks with an average of 19.4 points. A talented shooter, he was Houston's top scorer with an average of 18 points but left the Cougars after his dad, the director of basketball operations, was asked to take a lesser position. Both father and son decided to leave the program.

Oregon successfully petitioned the NCAA for a waiver to allow Young to play immediately rather than sit out a season.

Oregon was again without guard Dominic Artis and forward Ben Carter, who are serving NCAA-mandated suspensions for selling team apparel. Both players were suspended through the Illinois game and they must donate the value of the apparel to charity.

Artis, a sophomore, averaged 8.5 points and 3.2 assists last season and was projected as a potential starter at guard alongside Loyd. Carter, also a sophomore, averaged 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds. The two will be eligible to return Tuesday when the Ducks host UC Irvine.

"We're not going to start them right away," Altman said. "We're going to work them in."

The Illini have a connection to the Pacific Northwest in guard Ahmad Starks, who played last season at Oregon State. Starks transferred to Illinois in the offseason to be closer to his ailing grandmother, but the NCAA denied his hardship waiver and he must sit out this season.

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