BOULDER, Colo. – It’s not the time of year to lay an egg, but that’s just what the No. 19 Oregon Ducks did at Coors Events Center in Boulder on Thursday night. In a game that would have given Oregon a share of the Pac-12 title and the number-one-seed in the upcoming conference tournament, Colorado crushed the Ducks, 76-53.
In its weakest performance since losing to Stanford on the road in late January, Oregon (23-7, 12-5) did nothing on Thursday night to resemble a title contender. Beaten in nearly every statistical category, the Duck gave little fight to Colorado as the Buffalo made it a remarkably easy season-sweep over the Ducks.
Oregon failed to take advantage of UCLA and California’s surprising losses on Wednesday. The Ducks could have clinched a portion of the league crown with a win against Colorado, but UCLA and Oregon are now tied in first at 12-5 with the Bruins playing at Washington and the Ducks at Utah on Saturday. If both teams win, they share the crown, but the Ducks hold the tie-breaker with UCLA and would be the league’s number-one-seed in next week’s Las Vegas tournament. California has finished its regular season with a 12-6 league mark and would own the tie-breaker with Oregon.
With the news right before the Colorado game that Andre Roberson, the nation’s leading rebounder would not play because of a viral infection, the Ducks seemed to have everything going in their favor. Roberson scored the winning basket for Colorado after an offensive rebound in their one-point win last month in Eugene that broke Oregon’s 20-game home winning streak .
E.J. Singler knocked down his first shot attempt to give Oregon a 2-0 lead and the execution on the first Duck possession was crisp and sharp. Things looked good. But Spencer Dinwiddie answered with a three-pointer and Colorado never trailed again. On this night, the Ducks didn’t have it, and Colorado played with inspiration. After Singler’s early hoop, the Ducks went ice-cold. Inside shots. Outside shots. Free throws. It didn’t matter. Nothing went in. Colorado took full advantage and the game was over early.
The lack of offensive execution wasn’t the only thing went missing in this game for Oregon. Defensive intensity was rarely in evidence, as the Ducks gave up easy drives to the hoop that opened up good looks for Colorado perimeter shooters. Even without Roberson, the Buffalo handily out-rebounded Oregon.
Colorado led the Ducks 37-21 at halftime, the fewest points scored by the Ducks in a half this season. The Ducks tried to mount a comeback in the second period, but it wasn’t to be. Each time the Ducks would make a brief run, Xavier Johnson or Dinwiddie would respond for Colorado. Johnson had a career scoring night and was perfect from the field as the freshman scored 22 points on 7 of 7 shooting, including three three-pointers. Dinwiddie added 17 points and seven rebounds.
Colorado won its 20th game for the third-straight season. The win over the Ducks strengthens Colorado’s NCAA tournament chances and gives them a fourth win over a ranked opponent this year. Now 20-9 overall with a 10-7 record in Pac-12 play, the Buffalo host Oregon State on Saturday. Colorado has been particularly tough to beat at home this season, running up a 12-2 record.
For Oregon, a bright spot on an otherwise dismal night was the play of freshman Ben Carter, who came off the bench to score 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting attempts and added two steals. Jonathan Loyd and Arsalan Kazemi each also contributed 10 points.
The Ducks didn’t shoot straight at high altitude in Boulder, but they have another opportunity in Salt Lake City on Saturday, when once again the Ducks have a chance to secure their first Pac-12 Conference title since 2002. The Utes defeated Oregon State 72-61 Thursday night to improve its record to 12-17 for the season and 4-13 in league play. Oregon defeated Utah 73-64 in Eugene last month after trailing at halftime.
With so much to be determined by Saturday’s contest, Oregon needs to regroup and play with the urgency and passion that was so surprisingly lacking at Colorado.
As coach Dana Altman said before the road trip started, “We want to win the title. We’ll be very, very disappointed if we don’t.”
Luke Roth will be covering the Ducks at the Pac-12 Tournament from Las Vegas. Follow him on Twitter: @luke_lukeroth