The Oregon Ducks fell behind a tough and talented Colorado team, and played from behind most of the second half. Despite a late scoring surge, in the end their efforts fell short, or sailed long, in the Pac-12 tournament opener. It was Oregon 62 – Colorado 63. Oregon dropped the second game of the season to the Buffs, the two losses by a combined 2 points.
The Pac-12 picture might be hazier than ever for the NCAA selection committee, after a pair of upsets Friday. #6 seed Colorado played a stifling and disciplined defense for stretches, which limited the #3 seed Oregon shooters into tough shots and disrupted much of the Oregon offense.
Oregon started quickly, controlling the tip and shot out to a 6-0 lead, and built a 10-4 lead within the first 3 minutes. Colorado then used an 11-2 run to take the lead at 17-15. The Ducks brought the game to a tie, at 20-20, and then again at 27-27 when Olu Ashaolu converted an and-1 with 5:40 remaining.
For a moment, it seemed Oregon would take the lead into the half as Devoe Joseph collected a steal, but his layup attempt precariously hung on the rim before rolling out. Garrett Sim managed another look, but he missed short and the Ducks went into the half trailing 34-33. Considering the stats at halftime, it was hard to figure out how the Ducks were even that close.
Oregon again came out in the yellow “Fighting Ducks” uniforms for the second game in a row. But, unlike the 50 point drubbing against Utah, the Ducks didn’t seem to have the same pep in their step, and what can you say, sometimes the shots just don’t fall.
Colorado shot a respectable 52% from the field in the first half while limiting the Ducks to just 38% on field goals including a frigid 4-15 from behind the arc. Oregon had played 2 very tightly contested games in the regular season against Colorado, but this was the best effort of the three from the Buffs.
All the credit for the outcome goes to them, as they played better team defense, competed hard down to the wire, and even out-scrapped the Oregon players for loose balls. 24 of the first 34 Colorado points were scored in the paint.
Most of the time, they say that playing on the first night of the tournament isn’t a good thing. Prior to the game, however, Dana Altman suggested playing the first night could actually be an advantage over resting on a first round bye. He noted that the team has a chance to both play on and get acclimated to the court and the atmosphere.
After the performance in the first half, you might wonder if that was more than just coach talk. The coach might be on to something, but given the choice, you take the bye every time.
Coming out of the break at half, the teams battled to a tie at 39 a piece with 17:00 to play on a Tony Woods and-1, which also gave a critical early 3rd foul on one of Colorado’s key big men- Austin Dufault.
From there, the Buffs savvy guard Carlon Brown went on a run of his own, capping it with a deep three pointer to give Colorado their biggest lead of the night, at 47-39.
The Ducks would not go out without a fight though, and around the 10 minute mark in the 2nd half, Oregon began to grab the momentum. Altman went to the full-court press, which immediately resulted in a Colorado turnover. Guard Askia Booker then answered and hit a layup to push the Buff lead back to 8.
After a Colorado miss, Oregon controlled the rebound but Ashaolu was called for a foul away from the ball. Andre Roberson missed the front end of a one-and- one, Oregon controlled the rebound but then the Ducks turned the ball over under the basket.
Tony Woods swatted Andre Roberson’s shot at the basket which led to a Devoe Joseph layup to pull the Ducks within 2. Tony Woods then scored his career high 14th point to tie the game at 58. With 3:31 left on the clock, the Ducks seemed to be taking control of the game and a gassed Colorado team. But Colorado battled back behind another timely basket by Brown- who had a game high 18 points- and then a put back by Roberson that reclaimed the lead for good.
Oregon had a final shot to win, but Devoe Joseph’s contested 3 point attempt missed everything as time expired, sending Buffalo players and fans into a frenzied celebration.
College basketball played in March is unforgiving, and the Pac-12 tournament is over for the Ducks, just like that. Colorado will go on to face Cal tonight, and the guess here is that the winner of that game will be going home with the Championship trophy and coveted automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
Oregon likely needed to win at least one game, and maybe all three to have a serious shot at being selected for the big dance. The NIT is looking like the more realistic destination at this point, and should be a decent seed with a 22-9 overall record.
Playing in the Pac-10/12, 20 wins is almost a lock for a NCAA bid in most years. Part of this down season can be tied player attrition around the league and a poor record in non-conference play.
Best Pac-12 records currently:
Oregon State 19-13*
As far as the NCAA tournament, I see Cal getting in regardless. If they win the conference tournament though, is it possible the Pac-12 may only see one bid, just a few years removed from a season that 7 teams were invited?
And in looking at the team records, if only California reaches the NCAA tourney, could the Pac-12 be sending 6 or 7 to the NIT?
Oregon’s post season journey did not end Thursday in the Staples Center. Only now, the next game might just be played at a destination much closer to home.