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When Carlos Emory dribbled hard from the right wing and slammed down one of his athletic dunks to give No. 19 Oregon a 47-40 advantage over Colorado with 4:26 remaining in the game, it looked once again like the Ducks were in full control and would win their 21st consecutive game at Matthew Knight Arena. More importantly, it would keep the Ducks tied with Arizona for first place in the Pac-12 race.
It wasn’t meant to be. For the second straight game, the Ducks couldn’t hold a lead late in the contest. Last Saturday’s crushing loss to California came when the Ducks turned it over late, didn’t get defensive stops, and gave up too many second chance points. Last night’s even-more disheartening game was ridiculously similar. The Ducks turned it over late, didn’t get defensive stops, and gave up too many second chance points.
Colorado never led in the game until Andre Robinson scored on an offensive put-back to give the Buffaloes a 48-47 advantage with 29 seconds left. When Oregon struggled to get an open shot in its following possession, coach Dana Altman called a time out with 8.3 seconds left. From there, Colorado blanketed E.J. Singler, and his jumper was tipped and corralled by the Buffaloes.
The end of the game featured a decisive 8-0 run in the last four minutes for Colorado, and left the stunned Oregon team and crowd searching for ways to explain what just happened in losing their third straight game.
Altman said, “The difference in the game were offensive rebounds and second-chance points, especially at the end.”
Singler said, “We didn’t execute, we had turnovers, we didn’t get stops down the stretch, and we gave up second-chance points.” Asked about what the frustration level was like in the locker room, Singler simply said, “High.”
The Ducks didn’t shoot well, especially in the second half, but Colorado shared the same symptoms. The Ducks and Buffaloes both shot just 36% for the contest, and Oregon maintained a four-six-point lead throughout. That is, for 39 minutes and 31 seconds before finally giving it up at the end, as the Ducks lost their third game in a row for the first time since March, 2011.
An obvious point of emphasis by Altman and his crew for the team last night was to cut down on its league-leading turnover average (16.1). The Ducks handled the ball well in the first half, only turning it over four times, but had three at critical times in the last four minutes to end up with 12 for the game.
But the quick ball movement that Altman’s teams are typically known for on offense was virtually non-existent. Colorado’s game plan was to be as physical as the referees would allow. They picked an excellent night for the strategy, as the crew of officials kept their whistles put away for most of the evening. Colorado was only called for seven fouls in the entire game, while Oregon had 14. The Ducks were perfect from the foul line, but they only shot two free throws, while the Buffaloes were 6 of 10. Asked if he ever had a team only shoot two free throws in a game before, Altman replied tersely, “I don’t believe so.”
It didn’t help that Oregon was miserable shooting the ball from the perimeter. The Ducks only hit 3 of 15 beyond the arc, for 20%, and this allowed the Buffalo defenders to squeeze the lane, not allowing Oregon room to drive. Instead Colorado dared Oregon to shoot from the outside, and it worked.
Altman said, “The inability to knock down shots is really hurting us right now.” In the last four games, Oregon is only shooting 21% from three-point-land. “It’s shrunk the floor,” added Altman. “It’s made it tough to drive to the basket, and to get the ball inside because there are a lot of guys in there.”
The continued absence of injured point guard Dominic Artis has certainly played a significant role in Oregon’s struggles, especially on offense. The Ducks are 1-3 with him gone and the team has not been nearly as efficient with him out of the lineup. Since his injury, the Ducks are averaging 14 fewer points a game. In the second half last night against Colorado, the Ducks scored a season-low 19 points. There is still no time table for his return, and both the coach and the players said that the team can’t use his absence as an excuse.
While the loss dents Oregon’s league title hopes, there were some bright spots. Arsalan Kazemi came out particularly motivated to perform well. He grabbed six rebounds in the first half, finishing with 11, and was involved in arguably the prettiest play of the game when he spun around his defender on the baseline, took a backdoor pass from Singler, and thundered down a dunk for a six point Oregon lead with nine minutes left.
Singler and Emory were the only Ducks in double figures, as Singler finished with 14 points, six rebounds, and three assists, while Emory had 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists.
For Colorado (15-7, 5-5 Pac-12), Robertson had a double-double as he scored 10 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. He was the only player in double figures for the Buffaloes.
Altman summed up the recent Oregon three-game slide when he said, “It’s really disappointing. We had things rolling pretty good, but the tide has turned. It’s going to take some character to turn it back around.”
The chance to show some of that character comes soon, when Utah comes to Eugene Saturday afternoon to face Oregon (18-5, 7-3 Pac-12).
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