What really happened when the Ducks played the Rhode Island Rams on Sunday night? Why did the game go down to the wire and how did the team build its lead, squander it and then roar back? Many of you who are reading this article saw the game in part or whole for yourselves, and you have your own thoughts about the game. If that’s the case, then let’s compare our ideas. Others of you who did not see the game, but know its flow and story-line generally, may still be interested in how the team struggled and eventually prevailed for the win to advance to the Sweet Sixteen bracket.
The game was hard-fought, tough and physical throughout. Any fan of basketball would have found the game to be fast and entertaining. I’m reasonably sure that fans on both sides took great joy at magnificent plays and fast paced action from both teams while suffering anguish and nail-biting anxiety other times in the game.
How did the URI Rams combat the Ducks? Why did the outcome of the game stay in limbo until Tyler Dorsey delivered the win in the final 5 seconds with a 3-point jumper from above the arch? What were the keys to the game?
Outside pressure defense by the Rams
The Oregon offense spreads the floor with all five players. The ball typically moves quickly to all corners or the half-court with precision rapid precision passing, occasionally working it into the post either high or low and then back out. The URI defense intercepted the players well above the key and outside on the wings. With the quick feet and hand speed of the Ram players this “outside attacking” strategy disrupted the flow of the Ducks and took the team out of its usual game.
The strategy manifested itself in more dribbling resulting in less and slower ball movement. On several plays the players made bad passes and hand-offs either disrupting their own rhythm, or resulting in turnovers from traveling, steals or interceptions. The turnover margin narrowed during the final minutes, but at the end was 11-13 favoring Rhode Island. The resulting disruption of the offense had more effect on the final score than the difference in turnovers.
Team Rebounding by the Ducks
While Jordan Bell was the “Bell-cow” of rebounding (12), displaying exceptional timing, positioning, awareness, jump, strength and competitive fire throughout the game, the entire starting five contributed to the rebounding margin of 33-26. Dylan Ennis (5), Dorsey (5), Dillon Brooks (7) and Payton Pritchard (2) crashed the boards, scrapped and fought for rebound and loose balls.
One cannot ignore the impact free-throws-made on the outcome of this game. URI was 6 of 8. The Ducks thrived by going to the line shooting 18 of 27. That 12-point difference in points scored on free throws was very probably the defining element of the win. URI fans booed the referees from the stands during the game. News accounts draw attention to the lopsided foul totals. The social media of Rams fans blaze with accusations of one-sided and unfair foul calling by the officials. However, the game is an ecosystem. Each element of play effects other elements in the symbiotic relationship of basketball.
The exploitation of the lanes with drives to the basket by Dorsey, Brooks, Bell, Ennis, Pritchard and Kavell Bigby-Williams caused URI to foul. Many of those drives and shots were hotly and closely contested marked by hard contact and close quarters contentions. The Ducks created many legitimate fouls with their aggressive style breaking from the top or wing and going inside. That is a skill and strategy not happenstance.
The combined point contributions of Dorsey (27) including the game winning 3, along with the (19) points of Brooks were monumental to the win. The intensity of each of the players who appeared in the game contributed to the win. Rhode Island fought back with every possession. Their team and coaches should be recognized for their talent, effort, strategy and competitive play in the game. They are a good team with a good record and took a very good UO team and higher seed to the buzzer.
This team of Ducks does not give up
No matter if they win the ultimate crown of NCAA Champions, or if they lose the next game in the Sweet Sixteen, or later in the Elite Eight or Final Four Semi Finals, these Ducks are Champions. Co-Champions of the Pac-12 with Arizona. Winners with a season record now at 31-5 having beaten some of the best teams in college basketball. The team is made up of guys who work hard every game, compete to the final buzzer, play fine team basketball, and most-of-the-time look like they love each other and playing the game together.
Synergy is the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The 2016-2017 Ducks have synergy. This Ducks team surpasses the “Kamikaze Kids,” in my memory, becoming the best Ducks basketball team of all time. Sunday’s win over the URI Rams was not pretty, but it is yet one more example that a team that refuses to lose and sticks together until the end can persevere to win. GO DUCKS!
Greenville, South Carolina