The Oregon Ducks defensively were outstanding as they knocked off the Nevada Wolf Pack 56-43, at Matthew Knight arena. The Ducks have been working on defensive communication, improving defensive rotations, and it showed in their final game of 2012.
Oregon also spent the final practices of 2012 working on limiting turnovers and improving ball movement in its inconsistent offensive execution. The match against the Wolf Pack showed that the Ducks still have work on the offensive end of their play.
Holding the Wolf Pack to 19% shooting in the first half, the Ducks limited Nevada to 14 points and were not seriously threatened the entire game, despite never consistently clicking on the offensive end. For the fifth time this season, the Ducks held an opponent under 50 points.
Coach Dana Altman was pleased with the defensive effort. He said, “Defensively, we had some great possessions. Guys were talking. Our adjustments were really good. Our rotations were really good. For a long time, I thought we were pretty sharp defensively.
“Especially Tony (Woods), with some blocks, and the way he changed a lot of shots inside.”
Altman added, “We got a little careless down the stretch when we gave up some transition baskets. But for the most part, our defense was pretty good.”
Turnovers and poor decision-making on offense once again plagued the Ducks. Oregon had 12 turnovers by halftime and finished with 20 for the game, nearly four over their Pac-12-leading average (16.1 pg).
Altman said, “Our turnovers are a real problem for us. The guys are not making simple plays. They’re trying to make way too difficult plays.
Guys decide what they’re going to do and do it regardless of what the defense dictates. We’re making the game way too difficult on the offensive end.”
Despite the spotty performance on offense, the Ducks improved their record to 11-2 for the season and 10-0 at Matt Knight Arena. Oregon was led by three players in double figures as Carlos Emory and Tony Woods each scored 13 points and Dominic Artis added 10.
Emory, in his normal role coming off the bench, had a team-high seven rebounds and played 34 minutes against the Wolf Pack. He started the second half when Arsalan Kazemi didn’t return from a head injury that occurred with 2:01 left in the first period.
Altman had praise for Emory. “When he’s really focused, he’s really good. He’s had a good week of practice and that led to a good performance this afternoon. He hit a big three when Nevada cut the lead down to six points in the second half.”
Nevada had outscored the Ducks 8-0 and had drawn within 39-33 before Emory drilled a three-pointer off an inbounds pass from Jonathan Lloyd.
The Ducks managed 14 assists on 17 made field goals for the game. The ball movement improved in the second half and Oregon had some good open looks against Nevada’s zone defense. But too often, turnovers led to easy Wolf Pack transition baskets. Altman noted, “They scored 20 of their 43 points off turnovers. A lot of them led to layups.”
Singler said, “We had the mindset of trying to limit our turnovers. Most of them were on me. I’ve got to be stronger with the ball. I’m a senior. I’ve got to take a lot of the blame.”
Altman said, “E.J.’s trying to make plays, but he’s just trying too hard.”
Oregon outrebounded the Wolf Pack 38-30, but were outscored in the paint 22-18. Nevada, 9-6, lost for the first time in their last six games and was led by Deonte Burton, who scored 12 points, despite missing his first nine attempts from the field.
Kazemi, who took an errant elbow under the Nevada basket near the end of the first half, did not return to the Duck bench from the locker room. Altman said, “I think he’s okay. He caught an elbow. He looked okay.”
Now the Ducks turn their attention to the Pac-12 season, with a Civil War opener Sunday at Oregon State. Singler noted, “It will be my last Civil War up there and it will probably be a little emotional.”
Altman added, “The atmosphere will be good. It always is. They’re winning ball games. It will be a tough game. This is an important week for us. I thought we had gotten some things worked out with our ball movement…with our turnovers. Obviously, we didn’t. We need to have a good week of practice.”
Number one on the Ducks’ list of New Year’s resolutions: quit giving the ball away.