The Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team had a roller coaster weekend in Washington state on their latest road trip. After falling to Washington State on Thursday with an uninspired effort, the Ducks bounced back in a big way with a win over the talented Washington Huskies in Seattle. Frankly, it was a game that the Ducks absolutely needed to win, not only to keep pace in the Pac-12 race, but to prove they are worthy of the early season praise.
Against Washington, the Ducks barely looked like an NCAA tournament team most of the game, let alone a team ranked inside the top 10 national. With 10:22 left in the game, the Ducks were down 48-32, and weren’t giving much reason to be optimistic about a comeback. But possession by possession they started chipping away.
Mike Hopkins, the Huskies head coach, a Jim Boeheim disciple, runs an aggressive 2-3 zone defense that historically gives teams trouble. The Ducks were no different. Generally, the key to beating a 2-3 zone getting the ball to the free throw line or below. Once there, the player with the ball must look to score, causing the defense to collapse and allowing shooters to spots up on the three-point line.
In the first half, the Ducks did not a poor job getting the ball into the middle of zone. They frequently had three players around the three point line, with two on the baseline, and the guards looking to drive to the middle. However, that can be difficult against a zone, with multiple defenders able to help. Further, on the plays Oregon was able to get into the middle, they were not consistently aggressive enough against the length of the Washington defense.
In the second half however, the Ducks primarily employed Chandler Lawson at the free throw line, and made an effort to get him the ball to make plays. And make plays he did. Lawson, recording his first double double as a collegiate, was a key catalyst in the comeback. He constantly made an impact, either scoring himself or finding open teammates.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Payton Pritchard and his barrage of beyond NBA three-point shots, including one to tie the game with 1:00 minute left in regulation and an incredible game winner in overtime. There is no doubt Pritchard carried the Ducks to victory.
Ignoring the heroics though, this was one of the best games I’ve seen Pritchard play. He let the game come to him. He didn’t try to force anything that wasn’t there, and didn’t over-dribble. He got teammates involved and in position to make plays, and they capitalized. This is a big development because there have been questions about who would step up outside of Pritchard. More opportunities for others will only make the Ducks better come March.
Because Oregon was able to start scoring, they were also able to set up their 1-2-1-1 trapping full court press. Although the press didn’t result in many turnovers, it got the Huskies out of rhythm and made them work for every shot. It also helped neutralize Isaiah Stewart, who was a one man wrecking crew for the Huskies early.
One player who defended Stewart very well was Shakur Juiston. As the Ducks went with a smaller lineup to end the game, Juiston was tasked with defending Stewart in the low post, where he had been dominating. Juiston was able to be physical and front him with success, while also stealing or deflecting multiple entry passes. It was a small thing, but just being able to slow Stewart a little bit really put Washington off balance.
Lady Ducks Stake Their Claim
Meanwhile, the Oregon women’s basketball team had a monumental win of their own over the weekend. The Lady Ducks were able to get the best of the No.3 Stanford Cardinal last Thursday. In what was a battle of possibly the top two teams in the country, no one was better than Sabrina Ionescu in the 32-point romping.
Stanford went on a 7-0 run to take a 37-36 lead just after halftime, but after that it was all Ducks. Led by Ionescu’s 22 second half points, and 37 total, the Ducks absolutely controlled the Cardinal. To go along with stifling defense, the Ducks went to their bread and butter on offense: Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard in the pick and roll.
Those two are so good taking what the defense gives them. Against Stanford, it was Ionescu making a myriad of mid-range jump shots. When that didn’t work, Satou Sabally came up huge with multiple offensive rebounds leading to second chance points. I plan on having an article soon breaking down how and why the Lady Ducks are so successful with their pick and rolls.
Oregon is going into this weekend with an enormous doubleheader matchup against in-state rival and No. 7 ranked Oregon State. The first game will be on Friday in Eugene, followed by their second game in as many days in Corvallis on Sunday. This will be an interesting battle to watch, as the Beavers have the advantage in height down low, but the Ducks should have the quickness advantage.
The Pac-12 is loaded on the women’s side this year, with six teams all ranked in the top 25. These two games are enormous for both Oregon and Oregon State to secure their place at the top of the conference standings. Not only that, but it could potentially be a deciding factor for who could earn a seed in the West region of the NCAA Tournament, which will hold its regional final at the Moda Center in Portland. We all saw what an advantage that was for the Ducks last season.
The game at Matthew Knight Arena is already sold out, and should be an electric atmosphere for the Ducks. The support that this team receives is nothing short of amazing. I say we take that support up to Corvallis on Sunday and make it MKA North!
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo From Tom Corno
Spencer Thomas, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, is an attorney for the Social Security Administration in Atlanta, Georgia, and coaches football at Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, GA.
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