bill walton

Bill Walton Predicts an Oregon National Championship

Yes … he really did! In his interview with sportscaster panelists on ESPN First Take Bill Walton was his usual self spouting interesting and at times, outrageous lines while being highly entertaining in the process. They asked him, “Who is going...

Dwayne Benjamin — X Factor for Ducks Hoops

When Hall-of-Famer Bill Walton broadcasts college basketball games with Oregon playing, he constantly faces the common reality that most individuals face. Around the University of Oregon student body and members of the press, especially Walton, forward Dwayne Benjamin is known...

Oregon Ducks & Weaves UCLA in 2 OT Win

WESTWOOD, CA. – Holy moly, was this a battle for the ages!  If the Ducks ever needed a game to boost their confidence this was it!  After a frustrating loss to UCLA back in Eugene earlier this year, Oregon made a personal note to themselves that when they’d visit UCLA, they would take them down for how they embarrassed them in their own home.  That’s exactly what the Ducks did, as Oregon had to dig deep within themselves to pull out the 87-83 double overtime win.

Dotson is back!

Dotson is back!

Out of Oregon’s starting five, only two scored throughout the first half.  Joseph Young had 10, while and Damyean Dotson had four.  Offense was hard to come by for both teams as UCLA shot 30% from the field and Oregon shot 39%.  What the Ducks did have going for them was the smooth play from the outstanding back-up guard Jason Calliste, as he carried the team on his back, dropping 15 points just in the first half.

With Calliste scoring the ball at will, and Mike Moser putting up 10 boards – giving Oregon more opportunities and not allowing UCLA to get second chance points – the Ducks took charge and led at the half, 37-25.

The Ducks couldn’t depend on Jason Calliste to carry them to the victory on his own.  Oregon rallied their troops, and gave them all they had in the second half.  With UCLA clamping down even more on defense, they were able to make a run back into this one off of Oregon’s missed shots and mental mistakes. However, even with everything going against Oregon toward the end of the second half, the Ducks still should have been able to finish the deal.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. With the Ducks up by four with eight seconds to go, UCLA hit a miraculous three-pointer to be down by only one after the Ducks led by double digits for the majority of the second half.  Joseph Young then hit two free-throws to put the Ducks up by three, but UCLA was able to get one last shot off with 1.3 seconds left off of a Hail Mary pass down the court to David Wear who hit the shot of his life, sending this one to overtime.

Jason Calliste

Jason Calliste

No one could believe the Cinderella story that UCLA was writing for themselves, but it was happening before our very eyes.  All hope seemed lost for the Ducks, as all of the momentum swung in favor of UCLA toward the end of the second half and carrying over into the first overtime.  Oregon was unable to move the ball around, nor were they able to get good shots off, as UCLA was hounding them on every possession.

But somehow, UCLA was unable to convert on their opportunities as well, and allowed the Ducks to match UCLA’s score, and send this one into a second overtime.  This just seemed like another one of those heart-breaking Duck losses, but the Ducks didn’t give up on themselves. In fact, the adversity woke them up and pushed them even more in the second overtime.

With Mike Moser dominating the boards — he finished with 20 – and Joseph Young absolutely slicing, dicing and serving up shots in UCLA’s face, the Ducks ended up being too much to handle for the Bruins. A huge three-point basket by Joseph Young in the corner sealed the deal for Oregon, as they came out victorious in UCLA’s hostile stadium.

Richard Amardi

Richard Amardi

For the game, Young finished with 26 and Calliste finished with 18.  UCLA’s Bryce Alford decided to go for a career-high 31 points on the Ducks, but thankfully it wasn’t enough to get them the W.  Much respect to UCLA for a nearly miraculous comeback win.

Oregon proved a lot to themselves and to their fans on Thursday night.  They showed character, discipline and maturity.  They showed that no matter what the situation looks like, it’s never over until the final buzzer sounds.

This Duck team isn’t out of the mix for the NCAA tournament by any means.  If anything, these sorts of games give the team confidence, telling them that if they did it once, they can do it again.  Now, unfortunately, the game should probably have never been in the position it was in by the end of the second half, and the team needs to hit their free throws in late-game situations, but overall the Ducks handled themselves very well.

 A ton of time for Coaching

A ton of time for Coaching

The biggest mistake for the Ducks was holding the ball toward the end of the game, trying to run the clock down.  For most teams, that’s probably a good strategy, because they can create opportunities in a half court set relatively easily, but the Ducks are of a different breed. They’re not a great half-court set team, and need to continually move the ball around until a good shot presents itself, otherwise they’ll end up chucking up some bad shots.

Oregon has only been improving in their recent games, and like I’ve been saying, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.  Hopefully, the Ducks can finish just as well as they started.

Just a Rebound Away From Potentially Making it a Great Day

EUGENE, OR.- After such a dominant win against Washington State last weekend, the Ducks were looking to carry over that momentum into Thursday night’s game against the legendary UCLA Bruins.  Last year, Oregon ended up beating UCLA in the PAC-12 Championship game, which gave the Ducks a birth into the NCAA tournament.  By UCLA’s effort tonight and highlight plays, it was obvious they were looking to get some Duck-hunting revenge going.

Joseph Young Making Things Happen

Joseph Young making things happen.

From the moment the ball was tipped-off, it was clear that Joseph Young was going to be the Duck’s shining star of the night. Young pushed the ball down the floor, attacked the basket early, and getting to the line for a perfect 10-10 on the game.

However, to offset Young’s explosive scoring outburst, team leader Mike Moser got into foul trouble early, leading to him to the bench for a majority of the first half.

With Moser taking a seat, Young took it into his own hands to supply the team with buckets.  He had 16 points just in the first half, coming off three treys, and one-on-one moves to the basket.  Oregon came out with a zone, which looked pretty smooth early, but very quickly turned into guys not knowing their where their spots were, allowing UCLA to take advantage of the Ducks with easy baskets.

The Ducks transitioned quickly into a man defense, which for the most part was pretty effective throughout the entire game.  UCLA initially played a man-to-man defense, which gave the Ducks trouble, but for some odd reason, the Bruins decided to switch into a zone defense, and the Ducks saw this as an opportunity to attack!  After trailing for the majority of the first half, Oregon came back to take a 23-21 lead, making UCLA go back into their man-to-man defense.

Calliste Came Up Big For The Ducks

Jason Calliste came up big for the Ducks — again.

Guys were getting substituted in and out constantly by Coach Altman, until Jason Calliste decided to make some things happen off the bench.

Calliste, someone who the Ducks relied on a lot earlier in the season, has somewhat faded throughout the Ducks PAC-12 play.  However, tonight, Calliste looked in prime form as he chipped in eight points off the bench in the first half, but went for 21 on the game!

Oregon led at the half 36-32, primarily due to UCLA’s shooting slump.  Oregon was able to knock down a big 6 three-point shots, to the Bruins 2.  Everything was working in the Ducks favor, until the second half hit.

In the first half, Oregon was able to penetrate relatively well through the 2-3 zone played by the Bruins, but as soon as UCLA went to man, Oregon had some trouble responding.  That’s exactly what happened at the beginning of the second half as well.

The Ducks looked very indecisive on offense, leading to break-away opportunities by the Bruins off the Duck’s missed shots/turnovers.  One person who was able to capitalize with some nasty authority off transition was guard Norman Powell, who had a one heck of a jam over Richard Amardi, giving UCLA all of the momentum throughout the majority of the second half.

Oregon, throughout the entire season, has had trouble creating shots for themselves in the half-court set, and it was blatantly obvious against UCLA how difficult it really is for them to create opportunities.  The ball swings from one side of the court to the other, but there’s minimal movement inside the paint area, very few screens being applied and the game speed is that of practice.

The answer to this conundrum is simple . . . Simply let it fly!  Sometimes the worst shots are the best shots, because they allow for easy put-back opportunities.  Also, I think a lot of it has to do with how picky the players are, looking for what is considered a ‘good shot’.  More risks need to be taken on offense, so that more reward will be produced.

However, even with Oregon struggling to buy a basket, their energy never seems to run out.  It may have been the fact that they were on ESPN 2, or maybe it was because Bill Walton, LeGarrette Blount, and Ed Dickson were in the house, but something lit a fire under the Ducks giving them a second chance at the game, as they made one heck of a comeback after being down by 11 at one point.

Calliste and Young took it into their own hands, as Moser was continuously in foul trouble, and mentally out of it after being taken out for so long.  Young finished with 25 on the night in the Ducks’ hard-fought-yet-disappointing comeback attempt.

Amardi had some big plays for the Ducks defensively

Richard Amardi had some big plays for the Ducks defensively.

It started with a Calliste steal leading to a fast break layup, followed by a huge ‘and-one’ take by Young.  Then, Calliste hit a dagger of a three to put the Ducks up 66-65 with just 1:28 to go in the game. But, right back at them came UCLA’s Jordan Adams with an and-one of his own, tying the game up.

Calliste then shoots a three with about 36 seconds to go, but goes in and out giving UCLA a shot at winning the game.  The Bruins miss their potential last shot of the game, but on the rebound Richard Amardi gets tangled up and called for a jump-ball, giving UCLA one last shot.

The Bruins hit a tear-drop giving them the lead 70-68, and with 5 seconds left, Coach Altman drew up a play that apparently wasn’t read correctly by point guard Johnathan Loyd.  With Joseph Young running a loop, looking to get the ball from Johnathan Loyd as he sprinted down the court, Loyd took it himself and was blocked on the runner in the lane which would have sent the game to overtime.  Coach Altman in his post-game talk said, “We were hoping he would get a look for Joe there,” but unfortunately that was not the case.

Oregon will look to redeem themselves on Saturday against the Trojans.  When asked about whether or not Coach Altman thinks they’re ready for a return to the “Upper Echelon,” he responded, “We gotta take it one game at a time.”

Top photo by Steven Francis

Blazers’ Corner: Jared Jeffries Retires, Bill Walton Encouraged By The Current Team

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Former Blazer Retires, Takes Front-Office Job With Nuggets 

There was a time when I considered Jared Jeffries to be the worst player in the NBA before he arrived in Portland last year.  Taken with the 11th pick in the 2002 draft, Jeffries was a star at Indiana who miraculously led the Hoosiers to the NCAA Championship game the previous tournament.

At 6-11, 235 pounds, Jeffries appeared to be a dynamic player who could play multiple positions.  But after 10 years, all Jeffries could show for his time in the association was averages of 5 points, 4 rebounds, a terrible 42 percent shooting percentage and an even worse 58 percent free throw shooting average.  When he made his way to Portland at the start of last season following the Raymond Felton trade, I thought, great, we’re getting a bust who somehow managed to survive in the league for a decade.

Jared Jeffries - nicekicks.com
Jared Jeffries | (nicekicks.com)

But despite playing in only 38 games, shooting just 30 percent from the floor and averaging a microscopic 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds (Albeit in 9 minutes a game), I somehow gained an appreciation for Jeffries.  Like Juwan Howard and Kurt Thomas before him, Jeffries brought a veteran savviness to the team.  He was by far the most willing Blazer to step in front of a defender and take a charge and he was often the first player off the bench to greet his teammates during a timeout.

Realizing his remaining time in the NBA would be short, despite still only being 31, Jeffries retired from the league this week and took a position in the scouting department with the Denver Nuggets.  He may have only been a Blazer for a short time, but from the interviews and games I watched, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy with a lot of basketball intelligence.

He may not have lived up to the hype coming out of Indiana, but Jared Jeffries still managed to play more than a decade at the highest level.  He’s a smart guy, and I’ll bet somewhere down the line you’ll see him making major basketball decisions for some organization.

Bill Walton Compares Damian Lillard to Two Ex-Teammates 

Earlier this week, former Blazer great Bill Walton was in town to receive the Enforcer Award during the third annual Maurice Lucas Foundation Celebration and Auction.  Besides reminiscing about his old teammate and friend Lucas, Walton also talked about the current group of Blazers and how he is encouraged for the future of the organization.

“A team in transition on the court and in the front office,” said Walton.  “It’s a great chance.  New start, fresh identity, let’s get going.  New business models, new players but you still have the foundation, the foundation of these incredible fans in this great place.  People who want to be here.  An exciting time and a chance for the players to build lives for themselves in a remarkable culture and environment.”

While Walton has never been shy about speaking hyperbolically on any topic in the NBA, his comments regarding the Blazers seemed a little more genuine.  Despite leaving the organization unceremoniously in the early ’80s, Walton has an affinity for the fans and the community in Portland and it sounds like he’s rooting for the team to succeed so that the fans can experience winning again.

Bill Walton - Vice.com
Bill Walton | (vice.com)

 

One of the keys to winning for the Blazers is reigning Rookie-of-the-Year and franchise player Damian Lillard.  Walton talked about Lillard and he couldn’t help but think about a couple of former teammates when Lillard’s name came up.

“Fun, a real fun player.  I remember running with Bobby (Gross) and Lionel (Hollins), how fun it was, what special players they were and really are.  Damian is a lot like that because yes, he’s got dazzling game, but really it’s his personality, the same thing that defines any great talent,” said Walton.  “He has a personality and a dynamism about him that inspires, rallies and ultimately builds communities.  We’re very hopeful and we’re extremely confident about him and his chances to lead this team to the Promise Land.”

Build communities?  Dynamism?  I had to look that one up.  Oh, how I’ve missed Waltonisms.  Walton also talked about getting back into broadcasting following a long, tough battle with numerous basketball-related injuries the last few years.  But he says he’s healthy now and primed to start working again.  Last year he did the occasional Pac-12 or Sacramento Kings game, but it sounds like he’s ready to go back full-time.

If that happens, the organization needs to find some way to get Walton to do a game with Rice and Barrett.  I can already hear Walton saying something ridiculous and Rice just staying quiet before saying “what, Bill?”  This needs to happen.  Possibly on a Tuesday when the team’s playing some bad team like Charlotte.  If anybody’s going to get us through a Hornets game, it’s Bill Walton!