— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor
We’ll get to the men’s Civil War basketball game in a minute. In the meantime, you didn’t ask me for this piece of information, but whomever wins the Super Bowl on Sunday will result in a former Oregon player getting a ring. That’s right, the big game in Indianapolis will have a ‘Ducky’ feel to it.
On the New England side, there is safety Patrick Chung. One of the best defensive backs in Oregon history has performed admirably at the pro level. He’s made a lot of big plays for the Patriots with an interception here or a special teams play there.
However, Spencer Paysinger has also quietly established himself with the New York Giants in his rookie season. The ex-Duck linebacker has 11 tackles this year, and should make a lot more before it’s all said and done.
Thus, with both teams having a U of O alum on their roster, I can neutralize that as a reason to take one side over the other. So let me tell you how I see this coming out in objective fashion.
On paper, it looks like the Patriots will roll in this one. They remember how the Giants ruined their undefeated season in that Super Bowl a few years ago, and a lot of people will tell you it’s not smart to bet against Tom Brady. Furthermore, the Giants snuck into the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
Ahhh, that’s where it gets interesting. Sure, the Giants didn’t have the prettiest of regular seasons. Nonetheless, they won when they had to and they seem to be playing their best football at the right time.
The matchup between Brady and Eli Manning is a compelling subplot to this story, too. Brady has won three Super Bowls, and will undoubtedly go down as one of the five greatest quartebacks of all time.
Meanwhile, Eli Manning has lived in the shadow of his big brother Peyton for years. People sometimes forget that he, like Peyton, also has a championship ring on his finger. If he wins on Sunday, it’ll mean he’ll have two in his collection. (Trust me, big brother will trade in his records for that honor).
So how does this play out? I see a tough battle and, having a lot of friends who are Patriots’ fans, it would be easy for me to say I’m rooting for a good game. Admittedly, my head is saying ‘New England’ while my heart is saying ‘New York.’
But I’ll go with the latter this time. This one will go back and forth and history will repeat itself. The Giants upset the Patriots once more 28-24.
Now let’s talk about that Civil War game. These match ups have gotten more competitive in recent years, and the one at Matt Arena definitely went down to the wire. But who saw this coming? Oregon State beating Oregon 76-71? I certainly saw a tight affair, but thought the Ducks would take it.
A big reason for the Beavers’ upset was the 27 points from Jared Cunningham. He’s become their playmaker, and hit some crucial three-pointers down the stretch.
“It’s our rival school and it was a big game with a great crowd, ” said Cunningham afterwards. “We had a lot of Beaver fans out there. I think we turned the corner with this win, especially with it being the Civil War game. It means a lot to Beaver nation.”
OSU may have turned a corner on their season, indeed. They’re now 4-5 in Pac-12 play (14-7 overall), and made a statement by beating their arch-enemies on their own floor. If they can perform like this the rest of the way, there might be a few more shockers before it’s all over.
For Oregon, however, the feeling has to be very bittersweet. Yes they’re still very much in the Pac-12 race with a 6-3 conference record (15-6 overall). But the Ducks didn’t play like a contender over the weekend.
Oregon sputtered around in the first half, and some of their mistakes finally came back to bite them in the second. Devoe Joseph did his part with 26 points, but received little help. Still, he argued it wasn’t lack of scoring that did his team in.
“It was more about defense and turnovers than offense,” Joseph explained. “It is disappointing. Any time you play at home, you expect to win. But we weren’t aggressive. It’s what we didn’t do, not what they did.”
He’s right. The two things that have been the Ducks achilles’ heel bit them hard against OSU. Their inconsistency on defense was apparent as Cunningham and Ahmad Starks (who had 15 points) lit up the scoreboard. And you’re not going to beat many teams when you turn the ball over 23 times. It’s something that Oregon will have to minimize when they head out on road against Colorado and Utah this week to keep their postseason hopes on track.
“We can’t lose home games and be in the huddle,” said Oregon head coach Dana Altman. “We have some serious work on the road this upcoming week.”
Whatever happens, the situation in the Pac-12 just got a little more interesting. How it all winds up is anyone’s guess.
Now, here’s a quick item before I wrap this up. Last Friday, EDN launched a live blog for what we think is the biggest game in prep basketball. We’ll be doing it again this coming Thursday night when Sheldon visits Marist. Check out the sports section about 7pm that evening, and see how this game between two of the state’s best teams is covered.
Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.