EUGENE, OR.- There’s no other way to put it, the Ducks are in big, big, BIG trouble. After such an impressive start to the season, the Ducks haven’t been able to carry their mojo into league play, as they are now 1-3 in the PAC-12 after their heart-breaking 82-80 loss to the Stanford Cardinal on Sunday afternoon.
Just when we all thought the Ducks were on their way to be recognized as a potential top 5 team, they’ve all of a sudden decided to take a costly tumble that could very well change the whole dynamic of the season. Not only have they lost their last three games, but two of them were home games. The number one rule in all of sports is to protect your own house, and Oregon, as of recently, hasn’t been able to do that for variety of reasons.
The biggest of which has to be due to their lack of communication — not only defensively, but offensively, as we’ve seen against Cal and Stanford in the past week. Coach Dana Altman said after the game, “We’re not communicating, not playing together.” But, they didn’t need to hear it from Coach Altman to believe it, they just needed to watch the first half of the Cardinal game. The Ducks committed 11 turnovers just in the first half, a number that is unacceptable for any team. The majority of the turnovers were created by Stanford’s 2-3 zone, which really seemed to give the Ducks trouble, almost as if they’ve never seen a 2-3 zone before.
With all of the turnovers that Oregon was committing, Stanford was able to convert on the opposite end of the court on fast break opportunities, leading to strong one-and-one finishes.
Hmmm, sounds familiar doesn’t it? That’s because THAT”S THEIR GAME PLAN! They’re one of the highest scoring teams in the nation, and it’s not just because they’re great shooters, but also because they have multiple opportunities throughout games to run out on fast breaks and score. However, when you give up 11 turnovers, and the opposing team gives up only three, there’s very little room for fast break execution.
So why is communication such an important part of the game? Had they’d been able to talk to each other on the offensive side, and move the ball around with more urgency, as opposed to the slow, and unsure passes that were made, they could have been in a much better position. The Ducks shot 56% from the field, and 50% from three! There was no excuse for them not to be ahead.
But, the zone did give them early trouble. The Ducks tried to make some difficult passes inside, and that will not ever work on a 2-3 zone. They also tried to swing the ball around the arc, but that won’t work either when there isn’t a fast-paced, fluid motion to it all.
The key to breaking the zone is either to rise up and shoot the three when the opportunity presents itself, or better yet, and a more favorable technique, is pass, cut, and find the open spot on the floor. until you cut up the zone enough to get the open look. It just takes communication among everyone, and that’s something that needs to be figured out by the coaching staff.
With all of the talent on this team, people shouldn’t be standing around watching just hoping someone else will make a great move to the basket. Players need to be in constant motion, making plays for one another. It’s not rocket science, but it isn’t as easy as I’m making it sound either. However, there’s no way that Stanford’s defense should have allowed the Ducks to give up the amount of turnovers that they did.
Oregon’s defense was once again a cause for concern, as well, as they allowed Stanford to finish the game shooting 53% from the field, and 43% from three, both unacceptable numbers for a team that’s trying to prove itself as an elite team in the conference. That all has to do with communication, and for a squad that has had 16 games to mesh, this isn’t the time to start to figure out how to play with one another. Coach Altman admitted in his post-game interview how they can’t use that as an excuse anymore, “We’re already halfway through the season, we can’t use that as an excuse for ourselves.”
Although everything was going against Oregon, they somehow were able to still rally back from being down the majority of the second half and make this one a nail-biter, as Mike Moser went absolutely OFF, finishing with 24 points and giving Oregon a potential shot at winning this one.
The game was 82-80 with about 8 seconds left, after Stanford missed two free-throws in a row, giving Dominic Artis a shot at tying this one up. He brought the ball down off the rebounded free-throw miss, and drove it to the basket, just to come up short on the game-tying layup, which would have sent the game to overtime.
Johnathan Loyd had an opportunity, as well, just before that attempt to tie the game, on an open top-of-the-key shot, but came up short, as Oregon just couldn’t find that last bit of ‘bounce’ that we have become accustomed to.
Stanford guards Anthony Brown and Chasson Randle went for 24 and 23 points, respectively, which gives the Ducks reason to suspect that something isn’t going right in the Ducks’ defensive guard scheme, especially in the 3-2 zone we played against Stanford. Cal’s freshman guard Jordan Mathews went for 32 just a couple of nights before, so something is missing defensively from the Oregon guards.
Coach Altman said after the game, “We’ll get things turned around.” And I wouldn’t doubt him, as he’s been through adversity before, and he knows how to handle it better than most.
Top photo by Steve Francis