Oregon Ducks

Five Ducks' spring game storylines: No. 2 - CB Thomas Graham Jr.

Five Ducks' spring game storylines: No. 2 - CB Thomas Graham Jr.

Oregon's spring game kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday.  Here is a look at one of the five reasons why you should care. 

No. 2: It's time to see what the hype surrounding freshman cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. is all about. 

Oregon freshman cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. seemingly has adjusted well to college football, at least as far as practices go. 

The 2017 recruit, rated as the No. 12 cornerback in the nation by Rivals.com, enrolled at Oregon early enough to participate in spring drills and immediately began turning heads.  

Oregon coach Willie Taggart has raved about Graham's ability to make plays and his love for the game. Junior cornerback Ugo Amadi said Graham reminded him of when he burst onto the scene as a highly-touted freshman in 2015. Senior cornerback Arrion Springs said Graham has been tremendous and is certainly better than he was as a freshman. 

Then there were these comments from senior safety/cornerback Tyree Robinson: "Thomas Graham has set himself apart form everyone else so far. He's just a competitor. Just from day one, he hasn't backed down from anybody. We just love that toughness."

We've been down this road before, however, with Oregon defensive backs. Early hype, then reality sets in. It's probably best to let Graham fly under the radar for a bit, especially in the Pac-12, typically loaded with strong passing teams. 

But while it might be wise to temper expectations for the young cornerback, it could still be fascinating to see glimpses of what his teammates and coaches have been raving about. 

Other entries: No. 1 - QB Travis Jonsen

Another triple-double; Another ankle-breaker; another day at the office for No. 2 Oregon

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Another triple-double; Another ankle-breaker; another day at the office for No. 2 Oregon

How Oregon won: Another triple-double, another ankle-breaking crossover, just another win for the Oregon Ducks. But it all came at the right time. Since defeating Stanford to claim the Pac-12 tournament title for the first time in school history, the No. 2 Ducks picked up right where they left off in round one of the NCAA March Madness tournament vs. No. 15 Seattle University with a commanding 88-45 win at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon.

“I thought we played really well right from the get go,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves. “When I saw our team diving for loose balls, early in that game, I could tell that this wasn’t just another game that we were just going to go through the motions and win this thing. These guys really wanted to compete.” 

Seattle University coach Suzy Barcomb said of Oregon, “I truthfully do think they should be a Final Four team…”

Lead by her tenth career triple-double, sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu shined once again in the spotlight. Ionescu finished with 19 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds, and she accomplished all of this in just 31 minutes. With one rebound to go to complete her triple-double, the crowd of Oregon fans began to subtly boo when other Oregon players got the rebound. All in good fun and in support of Ionescu, the NCAA record-holder for career triple-doubles. At last, she finally grabbed her final rebound, was immediately taken out of the game by Graves, and for the remaining nine minutes of the game, Ionescu was pumping up her teammates from the bench.

Coming off a deep tournament run last season, the Ducks were hungry for more coming out tonight and in front of their home crowd.

“Less nerves? No, I think I was nervous, I think our team was nervous,” said Ionescu. “Seeding doesn’t matter, I think we learned that last year. We came out and we were hungry for wins, and we wanted to play and we hung in their with 2-seed’s, 3-seed’s, 4-seed’s, so seeding didn’t matter. It just felt different because we were at home and we had the crowd on our side.”

It was just clicking on both ends of the floor tonight for Oregon. What started on the defensive end was finished on offensive with swift ball movement and establishing both an inside and outside game. Oregon got off to a hot start forcing four quick turnovers getting hands in the passing lanes and deflecting balls. The Ducks held Seattle scoreless for just over five minutes. 

What it means: The Ducks will play the No. 10 Minnesota Golden Gophers in round two of the Spokane Region tournament at 7:30 PM at Matthew Knight Arena. Minnesota comes in as the number three scoring offense in the country, so Oregon will have to bring it on the defensive front once again.

“They have quick guards and they move the ball well, they shoot the ball well,” said Ionescu. “It will be a tough team, but I think we are prepared, especially playing through the Pac-12 and our preseason games. I think it prepares us for March, so I’m excited to play another game.”

High-flying Ducks: Five Oregon players scored in double digits tonight. Lead by Ionescu's 19 points, junior Oti Gildon came up huge off the bench finishing with 16 points and six rebounds. Sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard was once again a force down low finishing with 12 points and one rebound shy of a double-double. Senior Lexi Bando, playing in her final collegiate tournament, finished with 11 points on 3-of-6 from behind the arc. Finally, junior guard Maite Cazorla finished with 10 points and zero turnovers.

Oregon scored 54 points in the paint, partly due to Hebard and Gildon making their presence known down low.

Foul play: Freshamn Satou Sabally finished with three fouls. 

Up next: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 10 Minnesota at 7:30 PM at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon is Victor-(BaileyJr)-ious in round 1 of NIT

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Oregon is Victor-(BaileyJr)-ious in round 1 of NIT

How Oregon won: The Ducks picked up right where they left off in Las Vegas last weekend for the Pac-12 tournament: slow start, better middle, even better ending. In the first round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), the No. 3 Ducks hosted the No. 6 Rider Broncs at Matthew Knight Arena, in front of a mere 2,327 Oregon fans. The shooting struggles continued from the Pac-12 tournament into the first quarter, that is until Oregon freshman Victor Bailey Jr., checked in off the bench. Bailey hit seven three-pointers and co-lead Oregon to a first-round NIT victory 99-86 over Rider.

“I know the guys were disappointed, I was disappointed, at halftime,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman. “We were beat in every category. Second chance points, bad turnovers, easy baskets. You know our energy level was just really bad. No communication defensively. It was not a good have and we were probably fortunate to only be down eight, as poorly as we played.”

Oregon shot just 33.3% on 5-of-15 from the field in the first quarter and trailed Rider 21-15. Add that to nine first-half turnovers (dribbling off foot, bad passes, stepping out of bounds) and the Ducks were the definition of “rocky start”.

Altman continued, “Second half, we didn’t get off to a real good start, but once we started clicking, and got a few shots down, the energy level went way up. VJ (Bailey Jr.) really likes to play when the ball is going in. He did a really nice job shooting the ball and giving us some energy…”

Bailey Jr., finished co-leading the Ducks with 23 points off the bench shooting 7-of-8 from behind the “new” NIT three-point line (extend an extra foot and eight inches).

What it means: The Ducks survived and advance to the next round of the NIT and awaits the winner of No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 7 Harvard.

Last weekend where the Ducks relied on senior leadership from MiKyle McIntosh and Elijah Brown during the Pac-12 tournament, tonight it was the underclassmen. Freshmen Bailey Jr., and Kenny Wooten got it done on both ends of the court. Shot-blocking phenom Wooten added three more blocks to his season stats tonight. Although Rider did outscore the Ducks in the paint 50-34, Wooten still managed to make his presence known. A number of those Rider points came in the first half with mis-communication in Oregon’s zone and getting the ball behind the big men down low.

Wooten recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

High-flying Ducks: With Bailey Jr., feeling it from downtown, that cause the Rider defense to push out to guard the perimeter leaving driving lanes more open for sophomore guard Payton Pritchard and freshman guard Troy Brown. Pritchard also finished with 23 points and added eight assists. Brown recorded eight points and seven rebounds. Elijah Brown had a quiet 18 points hitting 3-of-6 from three-point range.

Foul play: Troy Brown and McIntosh each finished with four fouls. Junior Paul White finished with three fouls.

Up next: The Ducks await the winner of No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 7 Harvard tomorrow night. Home court advantage is based on seeding, so if Marquette wins, Oregon will travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. If Harvard wins, Oregon will host the next round of the NIT.

Big Dance hopes on the line for Oregon vs. USC in Pac-12 semifinal game

Big Dance hopes on the line for Oregon vs. USC in Pac-12 semifinal game

Pac-12 Semifinal: #6 Oregon (22-11, 10-8) vs. #2 USC (25-7, 12-6)

It’s been a dramatic journey for Oregon to reach the Pac-12 tournament semifinal game.

The Ducks trailed by as many as 11 points to Utah in the second half of the quarterfinal game, but a late rally and some last-minute heroics from MiKyle McIntosh and a game saving block from Kenny Wooten sealed the 68-66 victory over No.3 seed Utah

Oregon will face No. 2 seed USC at 8:30 p.m., Friday night. USC has topped Oregon in close victories in the schools’ two meetings so far this season.

On Jan. 18, the Trojans beat Oregon, 75-70, in Eugene and then earned a 72-70 victory over the Ducks at the Galen Center on Feb. 15.

USC’s Jordan McLaughlin has been a handful for Oregon this season. He had a near triple-double in the first meeting with 11 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. In the second game, he had a double-double with 11 points and 11 assists.

USC had a first game bye and then held Oregon State to 31 percent shooting in a 61-48 victory to reach the semifinal game. Chimezie Metu had 22 points and 11 rebounds and two blocks in the Trojans victory over the Beavers.

Oregon has played eight straight games that have been decided by single digits, including three that went to overtime.  

Will the comeback Ducks strike again? Oregon is in a position where they likely need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to get to the NCAA Tournament.

The Trojans have the resume of a bubble team, another win would be a significant boost to their tournament resume.

Cristobal begins reshaping Oregon football today with start of spring drills

Cristobal begins reshaping Oregon football today with start of spring drills

Today won't technically be the first time that the Oregon Ducks take the field under new coach Mario Cristobal when spring drills begin. But in many ways it will be. 

The actual first time Cristobal led the Oregon football team onto a field of any kind occurred in early December shortly after Willie Taggart departed for Florida State, leaving the Ducks in disarray. 

Cristobal did his best to right the ship in time for the Las Vegas Bowl just 10 days later but he simply didn't have enough time to fix the mess at hand. The players, who lobbied for Cristobal to replace Taggart, didn't successfully make the transition from "Do Something" to disappointment and then back to contentment under their new leader (save for defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt being bent out of shape he didn't replace Taggart) in time to avoid a 38-28 loss to Boise State in Sin City. 

There was simply too much disruption in play, and that included star running back Royce Freeman electing not to play in the bowl game in order to avoid a potential injury before departing to the NFL. 

So, let's give Cristobal, the staff (those who returned) and the players the benefit of that doubt that what we saw in Las Vegas was an aberration and that the new era under a man who won national titles as a player at Miami (1989 and 1991) and as an assistant coach at Alabama (2015) begins today with a clean slate.

What Cristobal inherited was a team that should win at least eight games in 2018 given the presence of junior quarterback Justin Herbert, the return of several key players on what was a greatly improved defense, and a weak schedule that included three non-conference powder puffs. 

Reaching 10 wins, or more, will require maintaining the momentum created by Taggart, keeping Herbert healthy (UO went 1-4 in his absence last year due to a broken collarbone) and flushing the offense's showing in Las Vegas while recapturing the magic that had the Ducks averaging about 50 points per game during the regular season when Herbert was in action. 

"I think last year there was a foundation laid between all of us that gave us a chance to start building upon that but there's a big difference between winning seven games and winning eight, nine, 10, 11," Cristobal said.

To reach those levels the Ducks (7-6 last season) must have success against Washington, Stanford and the Chip Kelly-led UCLA Bruins at home, while also finding a way to win potentially tough road games at Arizona and Utah. 

The problem is that there is much mystery to unravel before anyone can rightfully believe that Oregon is going to find those 10 wins and contend in the Pac-12 North. 

Cristobal hasn't been a head coach since being fired from the same position with Florida International in 2012 after going 27-47. The Ducks are on their third coach in 15 months (Mark Helfrich was fired in December of 2016). Backup quarterback remains a huge issue. Wide receiver is in flux. The defensive line lacks depth. Freeman is gone. 

Plus, Oregon's aura as a dominant force has waned. The conference is not longer chasing Oregon. The Ducks are the one doing the hunting. And there's reason to believe that the hierarchy of conference coaches are not shaking in their boots fearful of the Cristobal era sweeping through the conference and laying waste to opponents. 

None of this is to say that Cristobal won't find success. He very well could. He also very well could not. 

We won't know the results for months. But that process begins today. 

Notes: UO will practice five times in March before taking time off for finals and spring break before returning to the field on April 3 to prepare for the spring game on April 21 in Autzen Stadium...Oregon will hold a practice at Franklin High School in Portland on April 7.  The Ducks practiced at Jesuit High School last spring. 

Ionescu shines in Ducks' biggest moment

Ashley Young

Ionescu shines in Ducks' biggest moment

Big time players make big time plays in big time games. In one of the biggest games of her young career, Oregon sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu had a little "twinkle in her eye", according to Oregon coach Kelly Graves, coming into tonight's Pac-12 tournament finals vs. the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal. Ionescu went off for a career high and Pac-12 championship record 36 points to lead the No. 1 Oregon Ducks past the Cardinal 77-57 in Seattle, WA.

This is the Ducks' first ever Pac-12 tournament championship in program history.

Graves said on Ionescu, "I tell you, when you have somebody like Sabrina, she shines the brightest in the biggest moments, and she sure did that tonight. It's a part of her competitive greatness."

What was the key to success? Rewind to the beginning of February, and the Ducks had just suffered their second conference loss to the Cardinal at home at Matthew Knight Arena. Tonight, it was a different story and some "unfinished business" to attend to. 

"I thought our energy was great, we were active, our feet and our hands were active," said Graves. "We didn't get out and trap much but I just thought we were on point and dialed in. We decided to play them outside-in to try to take away that three-point game the best we could, make them make baskets around the hoop and we did that."

Ionescu, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, finished with 36 points shooting 14-of-24 from the field, four rebounds, four assists, and four steals. The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Satou Sabally recorded 12 points hitting 3-of-5 from three-point range. Sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard was one rebound shy of another double-double and finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Junior guard Maite Cazorla finished with 10 points and six assists.



Survive & Advance. Ducks flying into Pac-12 title game

Ashley Young

Survive & Advance. Ducks flying into Pac-12 title game

How Oregon won: The Ducks and Bruins picked up right where they left off 12 nights ago in Eugene, OR. This game, including the build-up to tip off, was nothing short of edge-of-your-seat entertainment on both sides of the court. From start to finish, this was a back-and-forth gripping battle, in which both Oregon coach Kelly Graves and UCLA coach Cori Close quoted as "an Elite Eight level game" and "Final Four" caliber. But in the end, it was all Ducks. Closing out on a 10-0 run, holding the Bruins scoreless in the final five minutes, and senior Lexi Bando hitting a huge three-pointer was the formula for success. No. 1 tournament seed Oregon fought all the way to the finish and defeats the No. 4 UCLA Bruins 65-62 in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals in Seattle, WA. 

The Ducks will advance to the Pac-12 tournament finals for the first time in program history.

Graves said, "I don't typically get that emotional but that was a heck of a game. We didn't show many signs that we were going to win that thing until late. Didn't appear at times to be our day and these guys just gutted it out. I thought defensively, late in that game, man we ran I think four possessions of man-to-man against htem in our first two games combined and we went man-to-man most of the night tonight and I thought out kids did a really good job and held a high-scoring team down."

Two, momentum-swinging runs from the Ducks, proved to be the catalyst in this game. Late in the second quarter, the Ducks found themselves in a 13-point hole, down 32-19 with 4:22 remaining. It was three-pointers from Bando, sophomore Sabrina Ionescu, and junior Maite Cazorla that swung the momentum back on the Ducks' side heading into the locker room at halftime down just two points.

"Well anytime you play UCLA, you know they're going to make runs," said Graves. "That's the kind of team they are, they feed off turnovers, long rebounds, those kinds of things. We are fortunate that we made the last one. I thought our 13-2 run late in the second quarter, I thought was the key to the game in a lot of ways just because it gave us a lot of momentum going in. I thought the first half we were as poor offensively as we've been, but we atleast got a bit of life. Lexi hit one of those big three's... seems like everytime she hits one of those three's it almost counts four or five because it seems to give us a lift."

What it means: The Ducks now await the winner of the second semifinal between the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal vs. the No. 6 Arizona State Sun Devils. 

It seemed as though UCLA won most stat categories tonight vs. Oregon. Total rebounds: 39-31, advantage UCLA; offensive rebounds: 17-8, advantage UCLA; points in the paint: 26-22, advantage UCLA; second-chance points: 14-7, advantage UCLA; and points off turnovers: 12-4, advantage, you guessed it, UCLA. So what went wrong? Or rather, what did Oregon do better. The Ducks only lead by a total of 4:04, but made every second count. Oregon shot the ball 9-of-19 (47%) from behind the arc, went 10-of-15 from the free-throw line, only committed seven personal fouls (a season-low), and got the ball into it's hot-handed shooters.

"It almost seemed the whole arena was filled with Oregon fans," said Ionescu following the game. "It was really nice and inspiring to see. I was firing them up and they stood with us throughout the whole game. We were down 13, they were still pumping us on and cheering us on, and that's really nice to see. We hope they come out tomorrow and continue to help us get this win."

High flying Ducks: Four Ducks finished in double figures. Lead by Ionescu's 17 points, three rebounds, and five assists, sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard recorded another double-double, her 11th of the season, with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Cazorla finished with 14 points and four rebounds. Bando finished with 11 points going 3-for-5 from three-point range.

Foul play: Freshman Satou Sabally and sophomore Mallory McGwire finished with two fouls a piece. Sabally also left the game with an apparent injury in the fourth quarter.

Up next: The Ducks await the winner of the 2nd Pac-12 tournament semifinal between Stanford and Arizona State. The game will be at 6 PM (PT) Sunday evening in Seattle, WA.

Royce Freeman performed well at the NFL Combine

Royce Freeman performed well at the NFL Combine

Former Oregon running back Royce Freeman ran the 40-yard dash in an impressive 4.54 seconds on Friday at the NFL Scouting Comibine in Indianapolis, Ind.  

His time ranked tied for ninth among the running backs invited to this year's scouting event and made all that more impressive by Freeman's weight of 229 pounds. 

A negative, however, was that Freeman benched 225 pounds just 17 times, which ranked tied for 12th among running backs. Seven running backs did 20 reps or more. One would have though that Freeman, given his size and power, would have done better in this event. 

Freeman did demonstrate great quickness for his size by performing well in the 3-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle. 

It was a strong overall showing for Freeman, who shouldn't remain on the draft board beyond the third round. 

Here is how Freeman did in his events:

40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds (ninth. Fastest was 4.38).

Bench press (225 pounds): 17 reps (tied for 12th. The most was 29).

Vertical: 34" (tied for 12th with the high being 41").

Broad jump: 118" (tied for 16th. Best was 128").

3-cone drill: 6.9 seconds (third).

20-yard shuttle: 4.16 seconds (third).

60-yard shuttle: 11.64 seconds (fourth out of six times posted). 





Ducks make it rain in Seattle in Pac-12 quarterfinal victory

Ashley Young

Ducks make it rain in Seattle in Pac-12 quarterfinal victory

How Oregon won: It was a beautiful, sunny day here in Seattle, but Oregon found a way to make it rain. Day one for the No. 1 tournament seeded Oregon Ducks and Oregon showed no signs of jitters or nerves and felt like it was back home in Eugene, OR. Senior leader Lexi Bando and freshman Satou Sabally lead the Ducks with a combined 11-of-16 from three-point range. While sophomore Sabrina Ionescu dished out a tournament single-game record 13 assists. The nationally ranked No. 6 Oregon Ducks picked up where they left off the regular season at the top with a Pac-12 quarterfinals 84-47 win over the Colorado Buffaloes in Seattle, WA.

"Sometimes in this first game there might be some tournament jitters, but I don't think we had it," said Oregon coach Kelly Graves. "I was just impressed with how our energy on both ends of the floor. Defensively, and offensively we spread the floor, we were shooting it well, the right people were getting the shots, it was just a really good game. I told them after the game, 'You were inspiring and I was a really proud coach.'"

A few stats to take note of: 16 fast break points for Oregon, showing that the Ducks want to be in control of the tempo and push the ball. The second, winning the rebound battle 40 to 24. 

Sabally, just a freshman and playing in her first post-season tournament, didn't show signs of being a freshman. She was confident shooting the ball and knowing when to give it up to one of her teammates. 

"I think our coaches just told us enough that we have to be ready," Sabally said following the game. "I think that's what it was, we were just ready to play and I was dialed in and my teammates were just all dialed in. It made it easier."

What it means: The Ducks now move into the Pac-12 tournament semi-finals and await the winner of the No. 4 UCLA Bruins vs. the No. 5 California Golden Bears. 

The Ducks' biggest weakness, according to Graves, has been eastablishing a big lead but letting teams back in, so to speak. Oregon gave up three quick three-pointers to the Buffs which called for a Graves timeout to regroup his team. From that point on, the Ducks rolled into halftime with a 45-18 lead. The Ducks held the Buffs to just 15 points in the third quarter and put of 30 themselves. Graves sent in the bench to pick up some minutes and experience and giving his starters a quarter and a half's rest in preparation for tomorrow's semifinals.

Ionescu said, "We talked about it in the locker room. We knew they were going to come out and they were going to play hard the rest of the game. We knew Kennedy (Leonard) and the rest of their guards were going to continue to take it to us but we knew that we had to continue to play well and grow as a team. You never know what happens in March so we did not want to let them get back into the game. We wanted to continue to get better every possession and every play. We let our bench come in and contribute and they played good minutes, so it was nice to see."

High flying Ducks: Oregon's starting five showed up and ready to play, even at the early 11:30 AM hour. Alongside of the hot shooting from Bando and Sabally, Ionescu was two rebounds short of another triple-double finishing with 10 points, 13 assists, and eight rebounds. Sophomore Ruthy Hebard also put together a nice game and finished with a double-double 11 points and 11 rebounds. Junior guard Maite Cazorla also put up nine points on 4-of-5 from the field.

Foul play: Hebard finished with three fouls.

Up next: The Ducks await the winner of UCLA vs. California and will play at 6 PM (PT) tomorrow evening at Key Arena in Seattle, WA.

The sad truth of NFL cuts, Jonathan Stewart

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The sad truth of NFL cuts, Jonathan Stewart


Jonathan Stewart was cut by the Carolina Panthers Wednesday, as reported by NFL.com. He is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher from his decade with the team.

It’s always sad when you see someone who has been with a team for so long and has been so productive get released. Stewart was a consistent force with the Panthers and never averaged less than eight carries a game for them. They are moving on from him because of concerns about his durability, age and they believe Christian McCaffrey can take over.

Stewart has been in the news in the Northwest since he was a star running back at Timberline High School in Washington. He chose to leave his home state to go to college in Eugene, OR and play for the Ducks. Washingtonians felt he should have stayed in state for college, but Duck fans are grateful he joined their team for three years before entering the NFL Draft. Stewart was picked 13th overall by the Panthers after scoring 31 touchdowns in his career for Oregon. He was a big back with great speed and wiggle. This helped him flourish in the NFL for many years.

Stewart passed DeAngelo Williams (who he shared the backfield with for much of his career) in 2017 for first place on the Panthers’ all-time leading rusher list. Stewart ends his Panther career with 7,318 yards rushing and 51 rushing touchdowns. He is currently also fourth on the Panthers’ all-time scoring list, behind John Kasay, Graham Gano (both kickers) and Steve Smith (a wide receiver).

I believe Stewart will find a new team before too long because he can still be a productive part of a backfield. He is a 240-pound barrel of consistency that could be a short yardage back for a number of teams. While he might not be the gamebreaker he was earlier in his career, he can still help a team in need of a veteran running back.