Devoe Joseph

Here to Stay: No. 21 Ducks’ 76-67 Win over No. 24 UCLA Validates Ranking

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He’s doing it with transfers. He’s doing it with freshmen. In just his third season as the head coach of the Oregon Ducks’ men’s basketball team, Dana Altman is doing what Ernie Kent couldn’t in his final three seasons at the helm in Eugene – following  the 2007 NCAA Tournament, when his Ducks charged to the Elite 8.

Altman has the No. 21 Oregon Ducks playing for each other. And for that reason, a deep run in the NCAA Tournament is a real possibility – way sooner than expected.

Oregon's Dominic Artis skies for a rebound in the Ducks' win over UCLA on Saturday (AP/Reed Saxon)
Oregon’s Dominic Artis skies for a rebound in the Ducks’ win over UCLA on Saturday (AP/Reed Saxon)

In Oregon’s 76-67 victory over the No. 24 UCLA Bruins, on the road in front of a raucous crowd at Pauley Pavilion, the Ducks overcame erratic first half shooting and a talented UCLA team with the fundamentals – good defense, hustle, and ball movement. You can attribute all of that to Altman’s coaching.

Doesn’t hurt that it’s a team full of players with something to prove. Take senior center Tony Woods, who transferred to Oregon from Wake Forest before last season. After a disappointing two seasons playing in the ACC, Woods came west, as part of a scintillating transfer class that also included Devoe Joseph, Olu Ashaolu, and Carlos Emory.

Still, Woods’ junior season paled in comparison to his fellow transfers. Always a solid defensive presence, he lacked touch around the basket and featured a free throw shot that would even make Andris Biedrins, Dwight Howard, and Shaquille O’Neal cringe. This season, Woods’ development with the ball in his hands has been remarkable, and his free throw form has slowly, but surely improved.

Stricken with the flu on Saturday, Woods had the perfect excuse to play subpar. But he didn’t. Instead, the senior had arguably his best game as a Duck – gathering 18 points on 8 of 9 shooting. Suddenly, Altman’s Ducks have a legitimate inside offensive scoring presence.

Fellow senior E.J. Singler has had a markedly different journey, the lone core holdover from the Kent era. After splashing onto the scene as the lone bright spot on a putrid 2009-2010 team, Singler has had to accept a role as less of a focal point of the offense this season. Saturday, he finished with 9 points on 3 of 8 shooting. In the final seconds of the first half, though, Singler buried one of the biggest shots of the game, a three-pointer to diminish a late-in-the-half Bruins charge and bring the Ducks’ deficit down to 3.

Arsalan Kazemi, a consistent force on the boards all season for Oregon, transferred to the program from Rice. Saturday, he put up yet another double-double, gathering 12 points and 11 rebounds. But one should expect seniors to step up in big game situations. Freshmen, that’s a different story – right?

Arsalan Kazemi drives to the bucket against UCLA (AP/Reed Saxon)
Arsalan Kazemi drives to the bucket against UCLA (AP/Reed Saxon)

Not Altman’s team. Point guard Dominic Artis, on a mission to mature in late game situations after a disastrous finish in an early season loss at UTEP, looked not the least bit overwhelmed in the clutch, burying key free throws and keeping the Ducks’ offense afloat down the stretch. Shooting guard Damyean Dotson, in one of his worst shooting performances of the season (2-11), accepted a more complementary role in the offense when it became clear he wouldn’t find his touch.

Forward Ben Carter, having seen inconsistent playing time throughout the season, found himself in the game – alongside Artis and Dotson, with less than five minutes to go. Instead of crumbling under the pressure, he played tenacious defense, helping to neutralize a tiring Bruins squad.

Fact is, the Ducks are not the most talented, or experienced team in the Pac-12. But they are the best – at least at this point in this season. They shoot well, rebound well, pass well, and defend well. It’s paid off, as Altman’s group has escaped the most challenging portion of their conference schedule – having beat legitimate tournament contenders Arizona, Arizona State, and UCLA.

Now, it gets a bit easier. But this conference is deceptively deep. To stay atop the Pac-12, the Ducks will need to remain focused and driven. With a coach like Altman, and a core of journeyed seniors and unfazed freshmen, Oregon may just have the formula they need.

OREGON MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
E.J. Singler 28 3-8 1-3 2-2 4 2 1 0 1 4 9
C. Emory 29 3-7 1-3 2-2 5 3 1 0 3 1 9
T. Woods 25 8-9 0-0 2-3 3 0 0 0 2 2 18
D. Artis 25 5-10 2-3 2-2 3 6 1 0 2 2 14
D. Dotson 35 2-11 2-3 5-6 6 3 2 0 1 2 11
BENCH MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
A. Kazemi 29 5-7 0-0 2-3 11 1 0 0 4 1 12
J. Loyd 15 0-3 0-1 0-3 4 2 1 1 2 2 0
B. Carter 8 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0
W. Austin 6 1-3 0-0 1-1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
TEAM   FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
  27-60 6-13 16-22 37 17 8 1 15 14 76
    45.0% 46.2% 72.7%
UCLA MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
T. Wear 34 8-14 1-1 0-0 2 0 0 1 3 4 17
L. Drew II 33 4-9 0-0 0-1 1 8 1 0 2 3 8
N. Powell 22 5-6 1-1 0-0 1 0 1 0 2 4 11
J. Adams 31 0-6 0-4 7-7 2 1 3 0 1 3 7
K. Anderson 30 4-10 0-1 2-3 11 6 1 0 5 3 10
BENCH MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
D. Wear 19 2-4 0-1 0-0 3 1 0 2 1 1 4
S. Muhammad 28 4-9 1-3 1-2 6 1 2 0 1 0 10
T. Parker 3 0-0 0-0 0-0 2 0 0 1 0 1 0
TEAM   FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
27-58 3-11 10-13 28 17 8 4 15 19 67
    46.6% 27.3% 76.9%  

Oregon men’s basketball knocked off by Colorado in Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal

Just like that, the dream was over.

With the third overall seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Oregon men’s basketball team was widely considered a threat to run the table and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Ducks (22-9) will go home early after a 63-62 loss at the hands of sixth-seeded Colorado (21-11).

The Ducks got off to a solid start in the early going, as E.J. Singler and Garrett Sim hit back-to-back threes to give Oregon a 6-0 lead. The Buffaloes bounced right back, however, and took off on an 11-2 run to take a 17-15 lead at the 11:55 mark of the first half.

At one point, both teams were shooting better than 50 percent from the field, but Oregon would cool off as time wound down before intermission. By the 3:49 mark, as the Ducks’ shots started hitting iron, Colorado had built its largest lead of the game at 34-29. Four quick points from junior center Tony Woods brought the Ducks to within one, and a steal by senior Tyrone Nared ignited a fast break that could have given Oregon the lead heading into the break. Yet Joseph missed the layup, and two additional attempts by Sim also fell short as the buzzer sounded.

Both Sim and Woods totaled eight points to lead Oregon in the first half, but leading scorer Joseph had just two points on 1-8 shooting. While the Ducks shot just 37.8 percent from the field, the Buffaloes came in a 51.1 clip. Eleven first-half offensive rebounds — five of which came from Olu Ashaolu alone — helped Oregon stay in the game, but the defense would have to be shored up if the Ducks were going to win.

It didn’t, at least for much of the second half. Time and again, the Buffaloes were able to convert open looks and looked to be in control with an eight-point lead at the 7:28 mark. But Oregon wasn’t going down without a fight, and on the heels of Singler and Woods used a quick 10-0 spurt to take a 60-58 lead. Just 2:45 remained at that point, and the Ducks held onto a one-point lead until the waning seconds, when Andre Roberson grabbed an offensive rebound and laid the ball in. Oregon would have one last shot to win the game at the buzzer, but Joseph’s three-point attempt went wide.

All of a sudden, the run had ended.

Devoe Joseph struggled for much of the game, shooting 6 of 19 from the field and finishing with only 12 points. Joseph attempted and air-balled the potentially game-winning and buzzer beating shot at the end of regulation. (Michael Ciaglo/Oregon Daily Emerald)

With the loss, any chance that Oregon had for an NCAA Tournament bid went out the window, and the Ducks are likely to receive an National Invitation Tournament bid instead. With top-seeded Washington also losing on Thursday, the possibility looms that the Pac-12 will send just one team to the Big Dance.

In the end, Woods led the way for Oregon with a career-high 14 points, four rebounds and four blocks. Joseph offset his poor shooting night to some extent with eight rebounds and four assists to go along with his 12 points, while Singler and Sim combined for just 17 points. The Ducks shot just 39.7 percent from the field, and converted only four of their 22 three point attempts.

In Colorado’s side, it was a two-man show between Roberson and Carlon Brown. While Roberson hit the game winner to punctuate his 12-point, 10-rebound performance, Brown scored a game-high 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting. The Buffaloes shot 45.5 percent overall, which helped make up for their being outrebounded 38-25.

Colorado moves on to play California today in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m.

Devoe Joseph, E.J. Singler earn spots on Pac-12 All-Conference teams

Both senior guard Devoe Joseph and junior forward E.J. Singler were named to the Pac-12 All-Conference teams on Monday, with Joseph occupying one of ten spots on the first team and Singler garnering second team honors.

Joseph, a native of Toronto, Ontario who averaged a team-best 16.8 points on the season, is the first Duck to play his way onto the Pac-12 first team since Aaron Brooks back in 2007. The senior transfer from Minnesota also led the Ducks in field goals made (140), field goals attempted (290) and minutes played per game (34.8), while shooting a pristine .445 from three-point range. In all, Oregon was 18-6 with him in the lineup (by rule, Joseph was forced to sit out through the end of fall quarter after transferring).

Singler, meanwhile, averaged 13.3 points per game while totaling a team-high 166 rebounds (5.5 per game) and leading the Pac-12 in free throw shooting percentage (.907). As of Monday, that percentage was also the second best in the nation (behind Central Connecticut State’s Robby Ptacek). Singler is also the only Duck besides Garrett Sim to start all 30 games in 2011-12.

Sim, for his part, was named an honorable mention after averaging 12.3 points per game on .467 shooting from three (second in the Pac-12). Junior Tony Woods (1.5 blocks per game) was an honorable mention on the all-defensive team.

Any hopes that Oregon would earn some of the most prestigious conference awards were quelled when California’s Jorge Gutierrez took home Player of the Year and Washington’s Lorenzo Romar was named Coach of the Year. Both Joseph and Oregon head coach Dana Altman were considered strong candidates for their respective categories. Gutierrez was also named Defensive Player of the Year, and Washington’s Tony Wroten earned Freshman of the Year honors.

Oregon men’s basketball routs Utah in Pac-12 finale

Very little went wrong as the Oregon men’s basketball team closed out the regular season with a 94-48 win over Utah in front of 10,444 fans Saturday afternoon at Matthew Knight Arena.

The Ducks (22-8, 13-5 Pac-12) claimed their fourth-straight victory in dominant fashion to earn the No. 3 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament that begins at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

Using a 34-2 run to open the game, Oregon eventually built a 52-14 halftime lead and was never seriously threatened as it held the Utes to just one field goal through the first 13 minutes of play.

Utah (6-24, 3-15) dropped its 10th game in 11 tries to end the regular season, and will match up with Colorado in the first round of the conference tournament.

“It was a good game for us,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We played well offensively and I thought our activity defensively was pretty good. We couldn’t have shot it much better that first half.”

The Utes missed 17 of their 22 field goal attempts in the opening half, while Oregon poured in a 65.6 percent shooting clip and went 10-for-15 from behind the three-point line. Senior guard Devoe Joseph, who scored 24 points against Colorado on Thursday night, went 6-for-6 from the field to score 14 of his team-high 21 points in the first half.

Joseph was quick to point to Oregon’s pestering defensive effort, which turned 14 Utah turnovers into 23 points for the Ducks.

“The defense was just amazing,” Joseph said. “We rebounded the ball well and got out and ended up getting good looks in transition for open threes and layups and dunks.”

Junior Carlos Emory also scored in double figures in the first half, going 4-for-4 from the field for 10 points in just seven minutes. He finished with a career-high 19 points and six rebounds.

E.J. Singler (12 points, 10 rebounds), Garrett Sim (13 points) and Olu Ashaolu (12 points, eight rebounds) also reached double-digit scoring. Ashaolu provided yet another highlight reel slam dunk when he jumped over Utah’s Javon Dawson midway through the second half and emphatically finished with one hand. The play eventually made its way to SportsCenter’s coveted Top-10 plays on Sunday night.

“We were just making plays for each other and playing unselfishly,” Sim said. “It seemed like they were always leaving someone open and we would find that guy.”

Utah center Jason Washburn led all scorers with 26 points to go along with seven rebounds and two blocks. No other Utah player scored more than five points in the loss.

Seniors Sim, Joseph, Ashaolu, Tyrone Nared and Jeremy Jacob were honored after the game as a part of Senior Night. Each player was pulled out of the game to a standing ovation and the majority of fans stuck around to hear a few words from each of the five after the game.

Few were more heartfelt than Sim’s farewell, as he thanked the fans, his teammates and gave an emotional thank you to his family as the day drew to a close.

In the postgame press conference, both Sim and Joseph reiterated there’s still a lot of season left to be played.

“It’s been a great season,” Sim said. “And I think the main thing is that the guys that we have, we like playing with each other and we like each other on and off the court. That translates into wins.”

Joseph and junior Tony Woods are the only Oregon players with NCAA Tournament experience, and Joseph believes this Oregon team has the right pieces to continue its strong play well into March.

“We definitely have the talent to do it and the motivation,” Joseph said. “That’s the main thing. When you have that motivation and that desire and you want really wanna make that run to get to the postseason, that takes over everything.”

A Few Thoughts Before I Go…

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

De'Anthony Thomas will probably rewrite the Oregon football record books before he leaves Eugene. (Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Lets talk a little sports.

First off, the soap opera between the Oregon football program and the NCAA continues.  Just about two weeks ago, the NCAA came out with findings of recruiting violations between 2008 and 2011.

Undoubtedly, some of you are nervous about what that could mean for the Ducks in the near future.  Well, you never can tell until any penalties are actually levied, but I don’t think any severe harm is going to occur when it’s all said and done.

I’ve always maintained that what likely happened here is that there was stumbling into a grey area.  Do the rules need to be clarified so situations like this never happen again?  Absolutely.

But does Oregon deserve to have wins vacated as well as receive a two-year postseason suspension?  Probably not and they probably won’t.

If you’re still worried, let me ask you something: do you think Chip Kelly would’ve turned down the chance to coach in the NFL if he was going to be in a potential mess?  That’s what I thought.

No, the Ducks will be fine in the end, so you can turn your attention towards wondering how much De’Anthony Thomas will be in 2012. Considering how phenomenal he was last season, it will be interesting to see how many records he breaks in his college career.

Dana Altman and his Ducks could very well wind up in the NCAA Tournament this year. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

It’ll also be intriguing to find out how the Oregon men’s basketball team winds up in the postseason. They’ve played well enough, from my standpoint, to warrant getting into the NCAA Tournament.

I know some people will argue that the Pac-12 is a weak conference, and the Ducks didn’t measure up in top non-conference games against Vanderbilt, BYU, and Virginia.  But they weren’t the same team at the start of the year that they are now.

They didn’t have Devoe Joseph in the lineup when the opened at Vandy. It took awhile for the newcomers like Tony Woods and Olu Ashaolu to figure out how to play with Garrett Sim and E.J. Singler.

I’m willing to bet if they were to play these teams again, the Ducks would beat every one of them. (Well, maybe Virginia would be a reach, but not the other two).  Of course, if Oregon wins the Pac-12 Tournament, they’ll be guaranteed a spot in the big dance and we can end the speculating.  Can they do it? We’ll see, but I like their chances.

Jeremy Lin has been one of the top feel good stories so far in 2012. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Staying on Oregon hoops for a while longer, some people have argued that Dana Altman should already be considered one of the best coaches in the program’s history.  Now, what Altman has done so far (averaging just over 20 wins in the past two seasons) has certainly exceeded initial expectations.  By the same token, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

He still hasn’t gotten the Ducks into the big tourney yet (though he soon will). Nor has he taken Oregon to the Elite Eight a couple times as Ernie Kent did, or won the whole thing like Howard Hobson.

I’m not trying to demean Altman’s performance by any stretch of the imagination. He’s proven himself to be a solid coach, and I think he could very well go down as one of the greatest in Oregon history.  But like anything else, there are still some chapters in this story before we can provide an ending.

The same can be said for the Knicks’ sensation Jeremy Lin.  Sure, he’s given a lot of folks a reason to watch the NBA again.  With the way he’s been playing, it’s a wonder why New York even considered cutting him off the team.  Heck, what were the Golden State Warriors thinking by letting him go? (Scratch that thought.  I already know why: they’re the Warriors).

However, for people to start comparing Lin to Magic Johnson at this juncture is a little far-fetched. For one thing, Lin has to play at this high level for a full season before we can even start this discussion. Well, that and he needs to show he can do it in a playoff game or two as well.

Still, there’s no question that Lin has been one of the better feel-good stories of the year and you hope he can keep it going.  I’d certainly rather talk about him than LeBron or the despicable Oklahoma City Thunder. (Sorry, but as a long-time Sonics’ fan, I will never root for OKC).

On a closing note, this is my last column at EDN for the foreseeable future. I’m going to continue writing for various outlets while I attend to other business. I may very well end up writing a sports column for this organization again in the near future. Let’s be clear about something: I may be leaving, but I am not going away.

So until next time, I will definitely see you in the bleachers.

 

Oregon falls to Cal, 86-83, in thrilling Pac-12 contest

Oregon had all the makings of an upset over league-leading California on Thursday night at Haas Pavilion, but the Ducks couldn’t hold off a late second-half run as the Golden Bears won 86-83 in dramatic fashion.

The Ducks (18-8, 9-5 Pac-12) led the entire second half until a pair of Jorge Gutierrez free throws gave Cal (21-6, 11-3) a 76-75 lead with 1:41 remaining in regulation. The lead increased to 83-77 before Oregon’s Devoe Joseph made a three-pointer to make it a one-possession game.

Harper Kamp made two free throws at the line after an E.J. Singler foul, but Joseph answered again with another deep three-pointer to keep the game alive. Cal’s David Kravish split a pair at the foul line, leaving the Ducks 18 seconds to take the game to overtime.

Joseph and Singler both got shots off during a chaotic final possession, but neither went down.

With the win, Cal remains in a tie for first place in the Pac-12 standings with Washington after the Huskies defeated Arizona State at home on Thursday night. Meanwhile, Oregon dropped a game behind Arizona, who moved into sole possession of second place with a win over Washington State.

Cal sophomore Justin Cobbs, a former teammate of Joseph’s at Minnesota, scored a career-high 28 points on 13-of-19 shooting to go along with eight assists. Kamp added 20 points and six boards for Cal.

Joseph scored a career-high 33 points on 10-of-17 from the floor, including a 4-of-9 clip from long range. He also made all nine of his free throws. Carlos Emory chipped in 11 points, four rebounds and four assists off the bench.

Despite a relatively sloppy first half — where Oregon committed half of its 22 turnovers — both teams shot well from the floor. The Ducks shot 53.3 percent (16-for-30), while Cal finished the opening 20 minutes with a 50 percent (16-of-32) shooting clip of its own.

Joseph, the fifth-leading score in the Pac-12, scored 21 of his 33 points in the second half. Fellow Toronto native Olu Ashaolu provided a big spark off the bench after a technical midway through the first half, scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds before intermission. He finished with 10 points.

Cal’s Allen Crabbe, who torched Oregon for 26 points on six made three-pointers when the teams last met in Eugene, scored all eight of his points in the first half on 2-for-10 shooting from the floor.

Oregon will be back in action on Sunday when they play Stanford in Maples Pavilion at 7:30 p.m.

Sim’s hot start leads Oregon to big win over Washington

Early in the week, there was one question surrounding Thursday night’s matchup between Oregon and Washington: How would the Ducks’ backcourt matchup with Husky standouts Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross?

Wroten (16.7 points per game) and Ross (15.2) both rank in the top five in Pac-12 scoring and have proven to be a handful for conference opponents this season. Their size — Wroten, a true freshman point guard, is listed a 6-foot-5, while Ross plays a lanky 6-6 wing — and athleticism has garnered numerous of attention from NBA scouts.

Head coach Dana Altman expressed plenty of concern about containing the duo when he met with reporters before Tuesday’s practice. Couple that with a heartbreaking loss to Colorado last Saturday in Boulder, and no one was exactly sure how the Ducks would respond.

Those questions were all but silenced in the opening two minutes of play, when Oregon senior Garrett Sim scored the first eight points of the game on back-to-back three-pointers to put the Ducks ahead, 8-0, and the Ducks never trailed on their way to a 82-57 victory.

“Garrett really got us going in the first half with a quick eight points,” junior forward E.J. Singler said. “And we just went off from there.”

The senior from Portland was absolutely lights out from the field in the first half, scoring all 13 of his points on 5-for-9 shooting, including 3 for 4 from behind the three-point line, and also dished out five assists along the way.

Sim’s hot hand was the catalyst in Oregon’s wins over USC and UCLA in mid-January when he made 7 of 13 three-pointers in those two games. However, he cooled off shortly after, making just five threes over the next three games. Whatever was missing during that stint was back on display against the Huskies.

“He was a little disappointed with the way he shot the ball the last couple ball games,” Altman said. “Garrett’s a competitor, and he was disappointed with the way he played (last week). He got a couple good looks there, and he knocked ‘em down. That fires anybody up.”

It was Sim who got things started, but his teammates didn’t falter in picking up the slack around him. Oregon shot 64.3 percent from the field (18 for 28) in the first half, including a 75 percent clip from distance. They continued to knocked down open shots in the second half, and shot 56.4 percent for the game against Washington’s 36.4.

Meanwhile, Wroten, a 57.1 percent free-throw shooter on the season, missed his first four attempts from the foul line and struggled to get the Huskies going offensively. He and Ross shot a combined 2 for 11 with four turnovers in the first half, which led to Washington’s 23-point deficit at intermission.

The Wroten-Ross tandem showed a few flashes of top-tier athleticism after intermission, particularly with Wroten’s four steals, but neither found their flow on offense. Wroten paced the Huskies with 14 points on 4-for-10 shooting, and Ross added eight points, shooting 4 for 12.

But even with a slightly improved second half from the Huskies, Oregon never let its foot off the gas pedal over the final 20 minutes en route to its most impressive victory of the season.

“We need that kind of excitement all the time,” Altman said. “We’ve got three home games left, and if we don’t get off to a great start we still need that enthusiasm and that passion.”

Though Sim was kept in check after half, junior Carlos Emory was right there to keep the momentum in the Ducks’ favor. Emory scored 10 of his career-high 16 points in the second half, making 7 of 8 shots from the floor to go with eight rebounds.

“Carlos has been great,” senior Jeremy Jacob said. “Great energy, he’s been scoring, he’s been rebounding. A lot of great plays from Carlos. Helped out a lot.”

Singler (13 points, eight rebounds) and senior Devoe Joseph (13 points, three assists) also scored in double figures for the Ducks.

Oregon men’s basketball surges past Utah 79-68

It was a little closer than Dana Altman may have preferred, but the Oregon men’s basketball managed to creep past Utah in Salt Lake City on Thursday 79-68.

The Ducks (16-6, 7-3 Pac-12) fell behind 18-14 early after Utah (5-17, 2-8 Pac-12) went on a torrid 10-0 run. An official TV timeout gave Oregon a chance to regroup, and both junior forward E.J. Singler and senior guard Devoe Joseph responded with an 8-0 run of their own to put the Ducks back ahead 22-18. It was a back and forth affair from there, with Oregon falling behind by as many as six points before storming back to tie it at 36 going into halftime.

Both Joseph and Utah’s Chris Hines entered the intermission with 12 points, and a quick look at the stat sheet showed that Utah was hanging on mostly by the strength of its three-point shooting. The Utes made five of their nine shots from beyond the arc in the first half, while Oregon came in at just three of eight. Otherwise, the Ducks outplayed the home team with advantages in turnovers (four to Utah’s eight), points in the paint (14 to Utah’s ten) and converted field goals (14 to Utah’s 12). 

And yet, Utah continued to hang on to its upset hopes as the second half began. Consecutive three-pointers from Hines and junior forward Dijon Farr gave the Utes a 49-41 advantage at the 14:36 mark, and Oregon was held to just five points through the half’s first seven minutes. A Carlos Emory three-pointer finally got things going at the 12-minute mark, and Singler followed with a three of his own to cut the score to 52-49. Emory struck again with a breakaway dunk off a turnover, and a layup from Singler allowed Oregon to regain the lead, 53-52.

It would be a dogfight over the game’s final eight minutes, but the Ducks sealed the deal with a 7-0 run keyed by Joseph, Emory and senior guard Garrett Sim. Utah would not come closer than eight over the last three minutes of the game, and Oregon would eventually walk away with a hard-fought 79-68 victory.

Joseph led the way with 20 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and two steals. Emory followed with 14 points and five rebounds, while Singler came in with 12 points. As a team, Oregon shot a respectable 49.1 percent from the field including eight of 16 from three point land. The Ducks missed just two of their 17 free throws and managed to keep turnovers in check with just seven.

Utah, meanwhile, was led by Hines — who also finished with 20 points. Guard Cedric Martin chipped in with 15 points, while Kareem Storey had a double-double (10 points, 11 assists). After outscoring the Ducks 10-5 from the bench in the first half, the Utes were ultimately done in by Oregon’s 20 second half bench points (Utah had just three).

Oregon returns to the floor on Saturday at 6 p.m. against Colorado (14-7, 6-3 Pac-12).

Super Bowl Will Have ‘Ducky’ Feel To It…

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

Spencer Paysinger (pictured left) has 11 tackles for the Giants this year. (Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

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.

Patrick Chung has a knack for making plays for the Patriots. (Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

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.’

Jared Cunningham led OSU with 27 points. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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.

Dana Altman said his team has work to do on the road. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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.

 

Costly turnovers and porous defense plague Oregon in Civil War defeat

Turnovers and defense.

In a forty-minute game that saw countless twists and turns, Oregon’s loss at the hands of Oregon State on Sunday was ultimately defined by those two sections of the stat sheet. Committing 23 turnovers and allowing the opposition to shoot 57.1 percent from the field in the second half is not a recipe for success.

“When you turn the ball over 23 times for 31 points, you’re not going to win many games,” head coach Dana Altman said. “We had some awful turnovers — their length did bother us, but it was just poor execution, and that’s my fault.”

Though Oregon held the Beavers to just 8 of 29 shooting for 23 points in the first half, it couldn’t carry that defensive prowess past intermission. During one particularly damaging six-minute stretch, Oregon State outscored the Ducks 22-4 to take a commanding 61-49 lead. The turnovers piled up as Craig Robinson deployed his famous 1-3-1 defense, and a plethora of miscues on defense caused Oregon to lose control of the game.

“Changing to a 1-3-1 defense at halftime really helped us in the second half,” Oregon State forward Devon Collier said. “At halftime coach just told us to match their intensity and come out aggressive.”

For Oregon, though, the breakdown was more a result of its own mistakes than any adjustments on the Beavers’ side.

“I think it’s what we didn’t do, not what they did,” senior guard Devoe Joseph said. “When we were aggressive in (the 1-3-1), and you’ve got Johnny (Loyd) penetrating and kicking it out — we got good shots, we got good looks. Sometimes we got a little hesitant, and they stood us up and forced turnovers.”

And on the other end, the contested shots of the first half became wide open looks after the break. The Beavers shot 5-of-7 from three-point range in the second half, and guard Jared Cunningham in particular caught fire with 24 of his 27 points. If the Ducks weren’t giving up open shot after turnovers, they were getting lost in the half-court game and failing to communicate.

“The breakdown was everywhere,” Joseph said. “Just lack of communication, not having the hand up on a shooter, bad close outs … every time a team shoots the ball that well, there has to be something wrong defensively.”

Altman, too, saw a distinct difference between the first and second halves.

“I thought the first half we did a pretty good job in front of our bench,” Altman said. “But the second half, our communication … they hit five of seven threes and all seven of them were wide open. They didn’t get those open threes in the first half.”

Now, Oregon will have to do its best to put the loss in the rearview mirror. The team’s brief cameo at the top of the Pac-12 standings came to an end, and the Ducks are now tied for third in the conference.

For Altman, that’s not good enough.

“We should be further along than what we are,” Altman said. “To turn the ball over 23 times in late January, that’s not acceptable … you can’t lose games at home and be in the hunt.”

The growing period, in other words, has ended for this team. There are no more excuses to be made as the Ducks hit the road this week to face off with Utah and Colorado.

“We need to put this game behind us and learn from it and then move on,” junior forward E.J. Singler said. ”This game was a step back when we needed to go forward. We need to be focused on the last half of the stretch (of conference play).”