Oregon started the year on a great note, 12-0 and ranked in the Top 10 of the Associated Press poll. Since the beginning of the Conference schedule the Ducks have gone 3-6, most recently breaking a three game losing streak with a victory over USC at Matthew Knight Arena this past Saturday. The Ducks now enter tough road territory to take on #2 Arizona. The Wildcats lost to California on Saturday 60-58. However the bigger loss was that of Starting Forward Sophomore Brandon Ashley broke his foot in the first half and will be out indefinitely. His production on the season averaged 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
The Ducks(15-6, 3-6 Pac-12) were able to put together a complete game on Defense vs the Trojans forcing 22 turnovers, but Oregon did not put away the Trojans until the second half. Down four points at the break the Ducks reeled off a 19-6 run and at one point held USC to one field goal in thirteen possessions. One player also broke out of his slump.
Wooden Award Finalist Joseph Young paced the Ducks with 7 steals, most in the first half. Oregon had 16 steals for the game. Young also led the team in scoring against USC with 21 points. Wednesday was the day that Oregon met with the media before heading down south. If the Ducks are to make the NCAA Tournament the game against Arizona(21-1, 8-1 Pac-12)
would be a good way to get back on track for that goal.
“That’s a great resume win, I think we all understand how important that is as far as the NCAA Tournament.”
Oregon Senior Guard Mike Moser on what a win at Arizona would mean
One area where Oregon has not had a problem this season is with scoring. The Ducks continue to lead the Pac-12 in scoring with 84.7 points per game, also good enough four fourth in the Nation. On the other hand Arizona is the leagues stingiest Defense allowing 56.8 points per game. Something will have to give on Thursday. Now that the Ducks have ‘learned’ again how to play Defense they will continue to fight for chances and rebounds.
Another strong point for the Ducks is bench play. Dana Altman has his guys ready and getting an eye opening average 31.1 points per game from his non starters. Other teams Oregon has faced are averaging 18 points per game. Oregon is also taking advantage for shots from the charity stripe leading the Conference by hitting 78.2 percent of their shots, good enough for 2nd Nationally.
It is clear from the above paragraphs that the issues with this team in 2013-14 have nothing to do with Offense, but Defense. If the team can put together a game similar to the Trojans they will be successful., However, keep in mind Arizona is not USC. This will not be a pickup game(at points) against lesser competition. If Oregon wants to get back into the NCAA Tournament discussion Mike Moyer has the right idea. They need this game.
Unfortunately due to scheduling Oregon will not get the chance to take on California(or Colorado) again during the regular season. Right now that is not a concern. Like the football program does, Altman is taking the one game at a time approach. The focus is on the Wildcats. Like Stanford is for Football, consider the Ducks and Arizona the Pac-12 Conference Game of the Year, Part 1(Part 2 Comes in the last rgular season conference game when Oregon hosts Arizona). If Oregon can make the most of opportunites it should be a great finish Thursday Night. The game is on ESPN at 6pm.