EUGENE, OREG. – On Sunday, the Ducks were back in action after a short, yet relaxing Christmas break, against the 3-7 Morgan State Bears. Oregon came into the game with an unblemished 11-0 record, and there was no reason for the Ducks to not continue their hot streak and push their record to 12-0. Oregon leads the nation in points per game, averaging 90.3 and, having scored a program-tying four 100-point games in one season. It’s safe to say, ladies and gentleman, that this team is for real. With a fast-paced, explosive offense (kind of like the football team), Oregon Basketball is beginning to attract some national attention for the fun and effective style of play that Coach Dana Altman has engineered.
With the great success the Ducks have had this season, they weren’t going to let Morgan State be the one to give them their first loss, as this one was over before it even started. The Bears won the tip-off and scored the first two buckets off Oregon turnovers, which lead to their first and only lead of the game with a score of 4-0. Oregon quickly composed themselves, and began to play the brand of Duck basketball which we’ve become accustomed this season, and by that I mean pure dominance.
With Oregon’s major weakness being their rebounding, Coach Altman decided to make a starting lineup change by inputting Richard Amardi in as center and bringing Waverly Austin off the bench. The move seemed to benefit the Ducks incredibly well, as Amardi and Mike Moser were a force to be reckoned with on the inside in a way that we haven’t seen for some time. For the first time in a VERY long time, the Ducks were actually outrebounding their opponent at half, 22-14!
Both teams began the game playing man-to-man coverage, and the Ducks also threw in a full-court press at the beginning, just to make sure the energy would be there to start off the game after coming in from the holiday break. The press didn’t work as well as had been hoped, however, as the Bears were able to break it quickly and attack the basket, drawing contact and getting to the line.
The Ducks gave up a mind-boggling 24 free throw attempts to the Bears off of silly and unnecessary fouls. If anything kept the Bears in this one, it was their accuracy on one-and-one opportunities. Coach Altman addressed this issue after the game saying, “Defensively, we wanted to do a better job. We put them on the free throw line 35 times, took a lot of chances and got ourselves out of position. Lot of reaches that got us out of position and allowed them to get to the basket. We aren’t sliding our feet well.”
However, with all of that in mind, Oregon’s offense was an absolute joy to watch, as Johnathan Loyd was doing what he does best — finding the open shooters and cutters, cutting up the defense as smooth as a knife through butter.
Joseph Young definitely helped the cause, as he dropped 17 points in just the first half! His shooting ability is beyond what anyone could have asked for of a transfer. He can stretch the floor as far as he wants, since his shooting range is unlimited. When the defenders see that he’s hot from three, they close out on him too tightly, and he has an easy drive-by to the basket to lay it in. It’s simply a lose-lose situation for the defense and so much fun to watch as a fan. Amardi also added a strong 12 points on 6-7 shooting and four boards. Let’s just say everything was clicking for the Ducks tonight, as they took a 54-29 lead at the half, shooting 58%, only to put this one away early.
The second half was a great time for us to see what our bench had to offer as a whole unit, when they took up the majority of minutes in the second half. Jason Calliste continued to be the strong, aggressive guard that he is, as he finished with 10 points going for a perfect 8-8 from the line and 1-1 from the field. It just doesn’t get any better! Jalil Abdul-Bassit also had a nice showing, as he finished with nine points, followed by Dominic Artis’s seven, in a team high 22 minutes off the bench. ”Second half we got sloppy, trying to play a lot of guys, trying to get a lot of guys ready. We came out real energetic, up 24 at half we got sloppy.”
Although you wouldn’t think that the final score of 97-76 would tell us anything about the team, it actually did. When Loyd was in the game for the Ducks, the ball was moving, players were cutting to the basket, looking to share the ball, and everyone had a great time.
However, once Dominic Artis was put in the game, the ball stopped moving, it was a one-on-one show, and Morgan State was able to capitalize off of the Duck’s turnovers and poor shot selection.
It’s unfortunate that this game was the last one in the Ducks’ preseason schedule, because Artis and Ben Carter need more time to get back into the swing of things following their nine-game suspensions. They need to learn to trust their teammates, as the majority of the group has already proven. Once that trust factor kicks in, the ball movement will also come, and this group of guys will be one lethal scoring group.
So, it’s finally time to begin conference play. The Ducks will take on Utah in their first PAC-12 matchup in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 2nd, at 5pm. The Ducks will have an opportunity to show us that what we’ve seen is, in fact, the real deal.
Top Photo By Don Olson