EUGENE, Ore. (AP)—Finally healthy and playing against some old acquaintances from back home, Malik Hairston had a career game Monday night, leading No. 11 Oregon to a 97-88 victory over Western Michigan in the World Vision Invitational.
Hairston scored 29 points on 9-of-11 shooting to pace the Ducks (3-0). It was a career-high for the senior forward out of Renaissance High School in Detroit, who also set a career-high with four blocks.
“I think it was great for us,” Hairston said. “It was fun basketball.”
Last season, Hairston battled through nagging groin and heel injuries that forced him to miss 10 games and hindered his production. After averaging 18.5 points in the Ducks’ first two games, Hairston came alive against Western Michigan, which featured Detroit players Andre Ricks, the cousin of Oregon sophomore point guard Tajuan Porter, and sophomore Martelle McLemore.
“You guys have to understand what Detroit’s all about,” Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins said. “Everybody knows everybody. It’s a basketball crazy city.”
Hairston tried to downplay the matchup.
“I want to play every game hard and try and help my team in every way I can,” Hairston said.
Hairston wasn’t the only one putting up big numbers against the Broncos (1-2).
Joevan Catron recorded a career-high 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Maarty Leunen added 18 points and eight rebounds and Bryce Taylor scored 17.
Oregon ran its regular-season nonconference winning streak to 15 games with three wins in as many days.
“I thought Hairston got stronger throughout the ballgame,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. “Catron got stronger each night out. We’re a very well-conditioned basketball team and this was a very good opportunity to strengthen our conditioning.”
David Kool had 24 points and Joe Reitz scored 21 to lead the Broncos, who scored 58 points in the second half to rally from a 46-30 halftime deficit to make it interesting in the final minutes. Reitz made two free throws with 7:14 left to cut the Ducks’ lead to 76-70.
But Oregon scored on its next nine possessions to go back up 92-81 with just over 2 minutes to play. Hairston scored six points during that stretch, including his third 3-pointer of the game.
But a 5-0 run by Western Michigan again made it a six-point game, 92-86, with 44 seconds left. The Ducks closed it out at the free throw line, however, as they went 5-of-6 over the final 42 seconds.
Oregon shot 56 percent overall and 48 percent from the 3-point line, though it struggled at times from the free throw line, making just 31-of-45 (69 percent).
“We’ve sacrificed our free throw shooting to work on our defense,” Kent said. “Unfortunately, it’s kind of bit us.”
The Broncos, who shot 33 percent in the first half, shot 53 percent in the second half and outrebounded the Ducks 35-31 overall.