EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — After two quiet games coming off the bench, Dwayne Benjamin made a statement return to Oregon's lineup just in time for the start of Pac-12 play.
The 6-foot-7 junior transfer scored a season-high 18 points in 33 minutes and hit two big 3-pointers late in regulation to help lead the Ducks (10-3) to a 69-67 overtime victory against UC Irvine on Monday night.
"I didn't know where we would be, I really didn't," Oregon coach Dana Altman said of his team's nonconference portion of the season that ended with two overtime wins.
"We have a lot of new faces. I thought our schedule was going to be really demanding, so I'm proud our guys found some ways to win some ball games, disappointed in our consistency."
With the Ducks clinging to a 65-64 lead late in overtime, Joseph Young hit an insurance 3-pointer for Oregon, which also got 15 points from Dillon Brooks and 14 from Elgin Cook. Alex Young led the Anteaters (6-6) with 12 points, and Travis Souza and Jaron Martin added 11 each.
When Altman shook up his lineup two games ago to try to jump-start his team, Benjamin was one of the casualties. He played just 27 minutes and had only two points in wins over Delaware State and UC Santa Barbara.
Benjamin, one of six newcomers for Altman, was back in the starting lineup against the Anteaters carrying just a 24.1 percent shooting touch from 3-point range.
But with UC Irvine leading 55-50, Benjamin's first 3 gave the Ducks hope and his second, with 7.6 seconds left in regulation, gave them the tie at 57-57 to send the game into overtime.
Oregon made just one 3-pointer in the first half but finished with five more, capped by Joseph Young's shot that put the Ducks up 68-64 with 23.4 seconds left in overtime. Souza answered with a long three with 6.0 seconds left to pull the Anteaters within one.
After Brooks made 1 of 2 free throws, Alex Young, who hit the game-winning shot in UC Irvine's victory over Green Bay a week ago, had another chance to play the hero. However, his pull-up 3 sailed long at the buzzer.
UC Irvine led by as many as 11 points early in the second half and was still ahead 49-44 with 7:09 left in regulation before Oregon mounted its first comeback. After the Ducks briefly regained the lead, the Anteaters used a 6-0 run to go up by five again at 55-50.
However, UC Irvine's scored only two more points in the final 3 ½ minutes of regulation as the Ducks fought back from several late turnovers for the tie. Oregon finished with 18 turnovers to 10 for UC Irvine.
"We had bad turnovers, fundamentally we weren't sound, which makes it even more disheartening because I think our guys know a little better than that," Altman said. "We just have a tremendous amount of work to do."
Oregon opened the game with a 9-2 burst as the Anteaters missed eight of their first nine shots before the first timeout. That's when UC Irvine coach Russell Turner put his team into a 2-3 zone defense that befuddled the Ducks for the rest of the half.
The Ducks' last lead of the half was 26-24 on a reverse dunk by Benjamin, who leaked behind the Anteater defense to take Casey Benson's lob pass on one of the few plays that worked for Oregon before the break with UC Irvine leading 33-26.
UC Irvine: Alex Young, the Oregon Class 4A prep player of the year when he led Phoenix High to the 2011 state championship, scored the last four points of the first half to close out a 9-0 run for the Anteaters. His six assists gave him 349 for his career, fourth best in UC Irvine history.
Oregon: The Ducks bring the longest winning streak into the start of Pac-12 Conference play, which starts Friday, at five. Oregon hosts its first three Pac-12 games to close out a seven-game home stand.
UC Irvine hosts Hampden-Sydney on Wednesday.
Oregon hosts Oregon State on Saturday.
SWAT YOU VERY MUCH
With four blocked shots Monday night, freshman Jordan Bell moved past Blair Rasmussen for second on Oregon's single-season list with 43 in just 13 games. That leaves Bell just eight behind the leader, Tony Woods, who had 51 three seasons ago.
Altman was particularly disappointed with his team's lack of ball movement against the Anteaters' zone. Many of the Ducks' turnovers came on lazy passes on the perimeter or to the post, as UC Irvine overplayed the passing lanes. "We're going to see 40 minutes of zone from everybody until we bend our knees and start moving," the coach said.