The Oregon men’s basketball team got back on track this past weekend, as they swept Colorado and Utah at home to take sole possession of first place in the Pac-12. The first half against Colorado looked much the same as we had seen over their last road trip; lethargic, not making shots and giving up way too many easy points. After being down by as many as 14, and nine at halftime, the Ducks stormed back to beat Colorado 68-60, and controlled the game against Utah from the jump for an 80-62 victory.
The biggest difference was an uptick in energy, led primarily by Will Richardson and Addison Patterson. Richardson, who has shown flashes this season, but has also seemed lost at times, put together his two best games as a Duck. Not only was he assertive and aggressive on the offensive end, but he was rebounding and creating for others as well. Patterson was also instrumental in turning things around with his energy on defense and ability to attack the rim.
Whether it was intended, or an accident based on necessity, Dana Altman may have found his best lineup playing “small ball” with essentially four guards out on the floor. This is no surprise, as this allows the Ducks to space the floor offensively and exploit mismatches, while also letting them switch everything on defense without much drop off. Oregon is able to do this because of guys like Patterson and Chris Duarte, who both have guard skills, but have the size to match up inside the paint.
Obviously, when a team is shooting well, it can make any offense look good, but the difference this past weekend was how the Ducks were getting those shots. The ball movement was much more crisp, with a purpose, and everyone was getting involved. No longer was it just Payton Pritchard trying to create everything on his own, and everyone else trying to find their role. Instead, Richardson was able to take charge, and they actively looked to get the ball inside to Shakur Juiston to let him make plays.
This opened up the offense for everyone else, and actually helped Pritchard be more efficient as well. He was able to play to his strengths, which are catch and shoot threes, and finishing at the rim in the open court. He will no doubt continue to the focal point of this team, but it will only be beneficial for his teammates to continue to be more involved.
The only negative from the weekend was the continued sense that the Ducks just can’t seem to ever be fully healthy. As we all know, N’Faly Dante has been out with a knee injury for the past six games, although it sounds as if he has been practicing and could be primed to return soon.
However, it now looks as if the injury bug has hit Duarte, as he was wearing a rather large brace on the pinkie finger of his shooting hand, which was clearly effecting his ability on the offensive side of the ball. For the Ducks to make a deep run come tournament time, this team will need to be fully healthy, with everyone clicking on all cylinders.
Oregon will also have to find a way to be more productive away from Matthew Knight Arena, which will be once again tested this weekend as they travel to the desert for a tough two games against Arizona and Arizona State. The Wildcats will be an extremely tough match up as they have the size inside to make the Ducks pay for playing a small lineup. It would be a big boost to have Dante back, even if for a few minutes.
Lady Ducks In Cruise Control
We are at a point where the Oregon women’s basketball team is just flat out making everything look easy. Even against No. 7 UCLA on the road, they at one point had a 26-point lead in the third quarter, before eventually winning by 14. They have now won 12 straight games and show no signs of slowing down.
This is a team on a mission, with all facets of their game working for them. This will need to continue as they travel to the Bay Area this coming weekend for another showdown with Stanford. After the Ducks won the last match up by 32 points in Eugene, you can bet the Cardinal are going to come out ready to play.
Unfortunately, they weekend did not go by without some hiccups. Minyon Moore, grad transfer from USC, played in her first game back at USC since joining the Ducks, and received a not so warm welcome. While at the free throw line, the Trojan fans chanted “traitor”, much to the displeasure of Kelly Graves, who after the game let his feelings known, calling the fans “classless.”
While it was undoubtedly a disappointing moment for Moore, it did give us as fans a glimpse as to why players love to play for Graves. Not only is he a great basketball mind, he is a players coach first and foremost, always having their back and best intentions in mind. He is a coach who I would most certainly enjoy playing for.
At this point the Ducks are playing for the potential number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. In order to do that, they will likely need to win the PAC-12 Tournament, while hoping teams in front of them slip up somewhere along the line. It should be a fun finish to the regular season, with a lot left still to play for.
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo From Twitter
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