The Ducks held off the battling Beavers in Sunday’s Civil War game, but not necessarily because of the starting lineup. Seeing the double-digit scoring figures by four of the five starters, people tend to focus all praise towards the fab five, but what about the “benchwarmers?”
Bench players are an important aspect of the game. They serve as encouragers and they’re the chant starters, but more than that they are present and ready to take over in battle.
Oregon has a consistently strong lineup. It is important get off to a good start, and such energy usually comes from the intensity brought at tip-off. However, the five starters cannot each play a full 40 minutes and maintain maximum effort the entire time. Equally as important as a good start, is for those players who come off the bench to continue the momentum to cut a deficit or extend a lead.
When someone in the starting five isn’t playing well, gets injured or needs a rest, one of the bench players trades places. Making the right substitution is critical because it gives the team a chance to either extend the lead or fight back from a deficit.
A great example of this was seen during the Civil War game. Oregon had created a six-point lead over the Beavers, five minutes into the game. At 14:43 remaining with the Ducks up 16-10, Jason Calliste and Ben Carter subbed in for Damyean Dotson and Austin Waverly. Shortly after, Elgin Cook and Dominic Artis were switched for Mike Moser and Johnathan Loyd. At this point, only one starter remained in the game. From here, the bench players helped extend the lead to the greatest margin of the game, 31-12, adding 15 points in just four minutes.
This resulted from steals and defensive rebounds that led to big three-point conversions. Collectively, the Oregon bench contributed 23 points to the victory over OSU. Calliste was the star off the bench, ending the game with 14 points and 4 steals.
In 20 of the 24 statistically documented games that the Ducks have played this year, Oregon’s bench has out-scored the opposing team’s by an average of 13 points a game. Of the four games in which the Ducks’ bench was out-scored, two were by only one point. Oregon’s bench players have scored a total of 696 points to date (29 per), as opposed to 388 (16) scored by their opponents.
This is a great relief for the Ducks knowing their bench can get things done when entering the game. But why such a high differential? The reasons are vast and vary greatly.
It could be because the starting lineup is not set in stone. Recently, that lineup changed from those of previous games. This change could potentially be dependent upon their particular opponent.
Taking a look at the season’s starters, the lineup consisting of Moser, Waverly, Joseph Young, Loyd and Dotson stayed the same for the first 11 games but has shifted thereafter.
Another reason for the high bench-point differential could be due to the performance of certain players. Some guys may be nursing injuries sustained in games or practices. Perhaps the five most productive players should start the game.
Team chemistry may have something to do with it. It is a beautiful sight to see five players in sync with each other. Likewise, it is an ugly mess to watch five players who seem each to be on a different page. When the starters are not clicking, adding a different player to that mix may make the right connection.
Lastly, work ethic, simply because actions speak louder than words. The Oregon bench seems to play with more heart and intensity than their opponent’s bench. They are also more productive, creating plays and adding points. The Ducks who first enter the game sometime after tip-off know the importance of their presence.
“Pine-timers” in any sport often get a bad wrap or are overlooked. Yet, much love goes out to the Oregon men who come off the bench to contribute. They prove that they are just as important as the five who start the game.
Top photo by Craig Strobeck