The Oregon Men’s Basketball team came back to earth Monday night in a loss to USC. From the jump, it was obvious that the Ducks didn’t come ready to play, as the Trojans jumped out to a 15-0 lead before the Ducks finally got on the board. In what was potentially the biggest game of the season so far, the Ducks showed they still have a long way to go to be playing at their highest level.
One bright spot was the passion and fire showed from senior guard LJ Figueroa. His stat line wasn’t anything exceptional by his standards, but his attack at the rim was an inspiring note to an otherwise ugly first half.
The Trojans hot shooting from the beginning could have come as somewhat of a surprise, but was not the reason the Ducks lost the game. This loss came down to rebounding and poor offensive execution. USC out-rebounded the Ducks 39-26, including 15 offensive rebounds that led to 11 second chance points. Meanwhile, Oregon shot just 40% from the field, and only had 10 assists on 23 made field goals.
Rebounding was always going to be an issue for this Duck team. While they do have good length on the perimeter, and good rebounding wings, they lack size down low and struggle to consistently rebound against bigger teams. Because this was to be expected, it is something that the Ducks will have to continue to find ways to be successful at despite the disadvantage. The lack of ball movement and making plays for teammates is however something that can be controlled and is cause for more concern.
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In Oregon’s five losses, the Ducks are averaging a putrid 10.6 assists per game. With that, in their last four games, they are averaging 9.3 assists. They are currently 155th in the nation in assists per game, at 13.3. The Ducks right now just aren’t making plays for each other.
Now, there are a number of potential reasons why this is occurring. Between injuries and COVID pauses and protocols, the Ducks have missed significant practice and game time, in which they would be able to build more chemistry as a group. They also lack a player who can consistently beat their man in a one on one matchup. Figueroa and Chris Duarte need to use their senior presence to rally the troops in the next couple of weeks and find that chemistry that this team desperately needs.
Dana Altman teams historically have played an open style of offense, where they try to space the floor and create mismatches on the perimeter. Even when they run their “sets“, those plays are generally set up to create a three point shot or a one-on-one opportunity. So, to be successful, this offense requires players that are able to penetrate and either create their own shot, or an open shot for others.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, they are having difficulty creating quality shots consistently. Right now, the Ducks are struggling to create plays for their teammates, as every drive, and every shot is coming from an isolation, and they are forcing tough shots when they have the ball.
This team has good shooters and good athletes that can make plays, but they need to take advantage of that. They need to make plays for each other, rather than trying to make the hero plays all by themselves. We constantly hear Altman yelling “simple plays”, and that is one of the things he is talking about. Take what the defense is giving them, and make plays for teammates.
I know I have said this many times, but I truly believe this team has great potential. Potential to make it to at least a Sweet 16 or Elite 8, but they need to come together and play for each other to get there. These next two weeks of practice and games are critical to get time on the court together and gel before postseason play.
Can they do it? I sure hope so. The seniors passion and desire to win needs to come through in these coming weeks and define the team’s potential in March.
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Top Photo By Eugene Johnson
Alex is a lifelong Duck fan living in Eugene who goes to every Football and Basketball game that he can, and appreciates his wife for putting up with him during those seasons. Sports have always been his biggest passion, having played and coached Basketball at the High School level. He hopes to bring a unique and deeper understanding of both the Men’s and Women’s basketball teams at Oregon, and looks forward to nerding out with everyone while writing and talking Ducks!
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