Eugene, OR.- The undefeated Pacific Tigers matched up on Friday against the Ducks. This contest was Oregon’s first of three battles in the Global Sports Hardwood Challenge. Hosted in Eugene, the Challenge should test the Ducks’ mental toughness and bench depth, as it will surely be a long weekend for the No. 14 team in the country.
The Ducks came into Friday’s game with their heads high after a dominating win against USF last Sunday. The biggest priority for Oregon is establishing good team chemistry, as the Ducks are composed primarily 0f transfers still becoming accustomed to one another’s styles of play. Although it can be frustrating establishing that chemistry, it is encouraging to note that the only thing that can beat Oregon at this point is, well . . . Oregon! They have the talent and coaching, and now Dana Altman’s goal is putting it all together.
In Oregon’s first game of the Hardwood Challenge against the Pacific Tigers, the Ducks came out the same way they did in the first half of the USF game. They were caught out of position on defense, were dominated on the glass (25-15 in the first half), and shot a poor 54% from the line and 25% from three-point range. The Tigers put up nine offensive rebounds and shot 42% from three. It was clear the Ducks had a little too much stuffing on Thanksgiving, because they simply looked slow, sloppy and lethargic. Both teams turned the ball over, but Oregon’s early turnovers led to transition points by the Tigers, killing Oregon’s momentum. The result — the Ducks were down 36-29 at the half.
On defense, the Tigers played a 3-2 zone to Oregon’s early man-to-man, which quickly turned into a zone, to match the Tigers style of play. Although the Ducks did move the ball around well, they couldn’t convert on their opportunities. Meanwhile, the Tigers popped threes all in the Ducks’ faces on lazy close-outs. Coach Altman understood in order to start scoring against the Tigers’ zone, they needed to attack Pacific’s zone gaps by dribble penetration, finding players open either under the basket or kicking the ball back out to perimeter shooters. Dana Altman turned to a three-guard lineup (Loyd, Calliste, and Young), hoping they would be able to create opportunities for one another.
For such a talented offensive team, 29 points in a half is unacceptable to Coach Altman. With Mike Moser being the only scorer in double digits at the half, the intensity had to pick up quickly. The Ducks did just that, and within the first few minutes of the second half, they hounded the Tigers and made them their prey. The Ducks moved much better on defense, switching back into their man-to-man to stop the three-point feeding frenzy that the Tigers had become accustomed to in the first half. Oregon began to steal, block, and close-out much better in the second half, which led to fast break points. Joseph Young began the come back with a three pointer and two incredible acrobatic lay-ups, assisting the Ducks in an early 16-0 run and pushing the lead to 45-36. Pacific went cold for the remainder of the game, shooting just 36% overall to the Ducks 56%.
Jonathan Loyd led the attack with 13 assists on the game. His quarterback- like vision on the court created opportunities for teammates, as four Ducks ended up scoring in double digits, led by Moser’s 19 points. Dotson quetly had a nice game with 13 points on 5-5 shooting, and Calliste came off the bench to contribute another 15. Oregon will need to continue to get solid contributions from their bench this weekend, simply because the starters cannot carry the load every game. By the middle of the second half, it was pretty obvious the Ducks had this one put away, as they went into cruise control and finished the game with a score of 85-62.
As this season continues, Oregon will have to address their issues on the boards. It will not be possible for this team to continue dominating opponents without stronger rebounding. Their increased attention to detail on the defensive glass will be key, since teams will only continue to get bigger and stronger as the season goes forward.
Oregon will continue to improve on their incredible potential in Saturday’s matchup at 3:30 pm against North Dakota.