— Sam Finley, EDN Sports
Critical Week For OregonThe Duck men come into this week with plenty of momentum after two solid wins in the desert. Last Thursday, Oregon edged Arizona State 67-58 in Tempe. Two days later in Tucson, the Ducks were able to hold off a second half surge by the Wildcats and held on for a 59-57 victory over Arizona.
It marked the first Oregon road sweep over the Arizona schools since the 2006-2007 season. More importantly, it gave the Ducks a 4-2 record in Pac-12 play. That puts them one game behind Stanford, Cal, and Washington in the conference standings.Now, comes a critical week for these Ducks. USC and UCLA are coming to town, if Oregon can take care of their home court, it’ll mean they could be contenders for the Pac-12 crown. Forward Jeremy Jacob said the key will be learning from went well from their recent successes.“We just need to build from the two wins we had at Arizona,” Jacob explained. “We’re really playing against ourselves. No matter who we play against, we want to do what we’ve got to do.”
On paper, it looks like Thursday night’s game against the 0-5 Trojans would be in Oregon’s favor. Conversely, Saturday’s matchup with the 3-2 Bruins could present a stiff challenge. But head coach Dana Altman stated that his team won’t be overlooking anyone this week, and cited that the new conference format (after expansion) makes every game even more crucial.
“We’ve previously played the same schools twice in one year,” said Altman. “But this season, we’ll only play the Arizona schools once as well as USC and UCLA once. It’s going to make important if you have any ties at the end of the season with those teams. The top four teams in the conference tournament get byes in the first round and everyone else has to play. So finishing in that top four is going to be pretty important, but all the games we play are going to be important.”
Over on the women’s side, you saw a little bit of everything from Oregon again. Last Thursday, the Ducks were able to get their fast-paced tempo going and cruised to a 87-73 win over Arizona at Matt Knight Arena.
On Thursday, however, Oregon couldn’t buy a bucket in the first half against Arizona State. The Ducks really weren’t able to run the floor until late in the second half, and the Sun Devils held on for a 53-49 victory.
Paul Westhead’s squad now has a 2-4 record in the Pac-12, and you still can’t tell which way they could go this season. They’ve had nice performances recently by freshman guard Lexi Petersen and sophomore Danielle Love. But it’s clear they’ve missed the injured Amanda Johnson and her 20 points per game. When she’s able to play again, this could be a fun team to watch.
Until then, it’s probably not the best time for these Ducks to go on the road to Southern California. But since they don’t control the schedule, that’s what they must do. They’ll tussle with 4-1 USC on Thursday night before visiting 2-3 UCLA this Saturday.
Beavers Need To Get Back On Track
The OSU men would love to replay their non-conference schedule again. They finished 10-2 before starting Pac-12 play. Since starting that slate, however, the Beavers find themselves with a 1-5 record and near the conference cellar.
Last week was another frustrating road trip for Craig Robinson’s crew. They lost 81-73 in overtime to Arizona on Thursday. Then, over the weekend, the Beavers sputtered in Tempe as ASU prevailed 76-66.
Maybe some home cooking at Gill Coliseum is what these guys need. They’ll get their chance to reverse course against UCLA on Thursday night. The Beavers will then host USC on Saturday evening.
This team has got plenty of talent with older guys like Jared Cunningham and Joe Burton, as well as sophomore Devon Collier. Buy they don’t seem to be able to put it all together for a consistent 40 minutes. There’s still time for a potential postseason run, but clock ticks louder on those chances with every loss.
Meanwhile, the Oregon State women’s team has been surprisingly competitive, all things considered. Two years ago, this program was literally rebuilding its roster when Scott Rueck took the coaching reins. But they currently find themselves with an overall 11-6 record and are 2-3 in Pac-12 play.
Their past week was a bit of a mixed bag for them. On Thursday, the Beavers battled for a 56-51 win over Arizona State. However, they took one on the chin Saturday, losing 58-56 against Arizona.
This week in L.A. won’t be easy, either. They’ll visit UCLA on Thursday evening, and then challenge USC Saturday. A split might be all the Beavers can hope for on this trip. Still, it would be another step in the right direction if they can pull it off.