The Ducks alumni team "Always Us" won an exhibition Thursday about a team of players primarily from nearby Bushnell University, 66-60. Next up for Maarty Leunen, Tajuan Porter, Bryce Taylor and company is The Basketball Tournament, a $ 1 million winner-take-all event that starts for Always Us on Sunday in Peoria, Illinois (noon, ESPN3).
Thursday's display capped off a short week of practice together for Always Us, which features players spanning generations from Leunen and Taylor to Shakur Juiston, a 2019-20 senior. They will now attempt to advance as one of two 16-team Illinois Regional finalists to the TBT quarterfinals on July 31 in Dayton.
"It's going to be fun," said Casey Benson, a member of the 2017 Oregon Final Four team, who scored the game-ending 3-pointer Thursday night. "The special part has been getting back together with all these guys. Obviously, getting the million dollars would be amazing, but cultivating these relationships has been really cool."
Adding to the excitement on Thursday was the presence of fans inside the Matthew Knight Arena for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. An estimated 600 of the faithful of the UO attended Thursday's exhibition and celebrated the former students present.
"It's really cool to bridge the gap," said Benson. "I think it's been really special. Obviously, we're all Ducks at the end of the day. It's quite a team. So it's been great to connect and get to know them."
In addition to getting to Meet Us, Always Us has become familiar with the TBT format. Most notably, he seeks to avoid late game fouls and other stoppages by employing "Elam Ending." At the first stop with less than 4 minutes to go, the clock goes off and the game becomes a race to a specific score, whatever the total points the leading team has at the time, plus eight. .
On Thursday, Always Us fouled with 3:25 left in the game to stop the clock with a 56-47 lead. The game thus turned into a race to 64 against the "Eugene All-Stars", the team of mostly Bushnell players along with Always Us team member MiKyle McIntosh and, to the delight of local fans, the student by UO Jordan Bell.