Oregon Ducks

Leavitt and Oregon's defense will be judged by stats, not wins

Leavitt and Oregon's defense will be judged by stats, not wins

EUGENE - Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is clearly growing tired of being reminded about just how bad the Ducks' defense was the previous two seasons. 

"I don't think about the past," he said. "I'm just trying to get through the day."

Each time the subject of the recent past is brought up, Leavitt reminds anyone within earshot that he doesn't concern himself with what happened before his arrival. He also doesn't want to judge this year's defense by how it compares statistically to the debacles of 2015 (115th in the nation) and 2016 (128th in the nation). 

"Wins," Leavitt said when asked how he would measure his first season with Oregon. "If we play good enough defense to win, get the ball back to our offense. Our offense has a lot of weapons. We need to keep getting the ball back to those guys and let them perform magic."

It's a nice sentiment, but Leavitt's incorrect. He will most certainly be judged by the statistical improvement of the defense, and nothing else. He is being paid $1.125 million per year not to simply help Oregon win games but to build a monster on defense so the Ducks and new coach Willie Taggart can win a national title. 

Don Pellum's defense helped UO win a ton of games in 2014 when Oregon went 13-2 and reached the national title game with quarterback Marcus Mariota and a defense that allowed 23.6 points per game. Leavitt's Colorado defense allowed 21.7 points per game last season, leading to his fat contract with Oregon. 

Oregon won nine games in 2015 - the Ducks would have won at least two more had quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. not been injured - and Pellum got demoted. Why? Because the defense allowed 37.5 points per game. 

The entire coaching staff got fired after last year's 4-8 season, which would have been 8-4 if not for a defense that allowed 41.4 points per game under defensive coordinator Brady Hoke, who wasn't to blame for a unit void of impact talent.

Now, here we are. 

Leavitt took Colorado's defense - loaded mostly with already developing talent he didn't recruit - and got them to improve tremendously in his two seasons there. He should be given ample time to do the same with Oregon, but he most certainly will be judged by his side of the ball's statistical growth. There's no way around that. 

The hype surrounding Leavitt, and the disrespect shown Hoke by many Oregon fans, members of the media covering the team and indirectly by university president Michael H. Schill during Taggart's introduction, mean that the energetic 59-year-old is expected to work miracles. 

If Oregon goes 10-2 but can't get over the hump nationally because the defense is allowing 37 points per game, that will fall on Leavitt while the 10 wins won't matter much. 

It's tough to put a number on what exactly Oregon's defense should look like in Leavitt's first season. But it's fair to expect no more than 33 points allowed per game and a total defensive ranking south of 85. 

If not, Leavitt owes Oregon a partial refund. 

 

The leader of the Pac(12). No. 8 Oregon claims regular season title

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The leader of the Pac(12). No. 8 Oregon claims regular season title

How Oregon won: The final game of the regular season, the 27th win on the season, and finally, the No. 8 Oregon Ducks can crown themselves the Pac-12 conference champions with a 74-61 over the Arizona Wildcats in Tuscon, AZ. The Ducks won in typical Oregon fashion: feeding the sophomore beast, the NCAA record holder for consecutive field goals made with 33, down low Ruthy Hebard, who finished with 24 points. 

It wasn't easy for Oregon with Arizona, lead by freshman forward Sam Thomas's 17 points and their star senior Jalea Bennett down low with 14 points, who stands second to last in the conference and with an upset mindset. The Wildcats never gave up and made a fourth quarter surge to put some pressure on the Ducks late.

But even with Arizona not giving up and fighting until the finish, the Ducks went on a 6-0 run in the final minutes, showing that the Ducks can finish a game even when the opposing team is gaining momentum. Senior guard Lexi Bando hit back-to-back clutch three-pointers to seal the game.

What it means: The Ducks will head into the Pac-12 conference tournament next weekend sitting pretty at the No. 1 seed. This is a huge advantage because lurking close behind the Ducks is: No. 16 Stanford, whom Oregon lost to this season; No. 10 UCLA, a proven challenge for the Ducks this season although the Ducks prevailed twice; and in-state rival No. 12 Oregon State, as the Civil War series split evenly between the Beavers and Ducks this season. 

This is the first Pac-12 regular season title since the 1999-2000 season for the Ducks. Oregon also gets its 27th win this season, a record for Oregon basketball history. 

High flying Ducks: Sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu was on triple-double watch once again, but fell just short recording 16 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds. Bando finished with 15 points hitting 5-of-7 from three-point range. These four have been consistent for the Ducks all season long.

Foul play: Bando finished with three fouls.

Storm. The. Court. Oregon completes the upset over No. 14 Arizona

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Storm. The. Court. Oregon completes the upset over No. 14 Arizona

How Oregon won: In a whirlwind of events that are springing from the Arizona Wildcats basketball program, the Oregon Ducks had to remain focused at the task at hand: pulling off an upset win over the No. 14 Wildcats in front of a sellout crown of 12,364 screaming Ducks' fans. It was going to be a battle from start to finish, and even then some. And this game did not disappoint. Lots at stake for Oregon: including a desperation win to give the Ducks a glimpse of hope of getting into the Madness that is March in the NCAA; completing the weekend sweep of the Arizona schools; and sending Oregon's seniors off on a winning note in their last game at Matthew Knight Arena. All was accomplished and all was right in the world of Eugene, OR. Lead by senior guard Elijah Brown's 30 points, the Oregon Ducks (19-10, 9-7 Pac-12) pull off the upset over No. 14 Arizona (22-7, 12-4 Pac-12) 98-93 in overtime. 

Let's not forget about one DeAndre Ayton, the Wildcats' freshman phenom and potential top future NBA draft pick. A matchup nightmare, that was at first assigned to Oregon's Paul White. But Ayton's size was too much for White to handle and the Ducks readjusted to putting more bodies and more weight surrounding Ayton. 

Oregon coach Dana Altman said, "We weren't ready for the physicality of the game. The big fellas [Ayton, Ristic], both of them just beat us up inside. At halftime, it was 14 to 6 in second chance points and we ended up winning the second chance points 22 to 19. So drastic turnaround that second half. And the points off turnovers was obviously a big difference: 20 to 4."

What it means: That is the big storyline in this game: turnovers and capitalizing on those turnovers. The Ducks took care of the ball, made smart decisions, and only committed a season-low four turnovers. On the other side of the ball, the Wildcats turned the ball over 17 times and the Ducks made them pay for it with 20 points off those turnovers. Swift ball movement and finding the hot hand of Elijah Brown made all the difference. But it wasn't all Brown. 3 of the 17 Arizona turnovers came from the quick hands and high defensive energy from Ducks freshman Abu Kigab, who Altman has strategically placed at the front of their full court press. 

"When I get out there, I'm always going to play with energy," said Kigab. "You know, play for my teammates, that is the most important thing... just go out there and play my hardest and give it all for my teammates every single day."

It was the seniors, on senior night, that put on a show in front of their home-town fans. Elijah Brown shot just 3-for-11 from beyond the arc, found his rhythm driving to the hoop and pulling up just inside the three-point line. His counterpart, senior MiKyle McIntosh, put up 20 points, five rebounds and four steals.

While the offense was rolling, the defense, especially on Ayton in the final minutes of the game, was locked in. The Oregon defense, which sometimes triple-teamed Ayton down low forcing the ball out of his hands, shut Ayton down completely in the final 12 mintues of the game holding him scoreless. He did still finished with 28 points though. But tough defense down the stretch and into overtime showed resilience from this Oregon Ducks squad.

High flying Ducks: All five starters finished in double digits: Brown and McIntosh combinding for 50 points. Redshirt junior Paul White finishing with 16 points hitting 4-of-6 from three-point range. Sophomore guard Payton Pritchard with 13 points, eight assists, and only one turnover. Freshman Troy Brown Jr., finishing with 11 points.  

Foul play: McIntosh, White, and freshman Kenny Wooten each finished with four fouls, with McIntosh picking up an additional technical foul.

Up next: Oregon will hit the road north to face Washington State (11-17, 3-13 Pac-12) at 6 PM (PT) this Thursday in Pullman, WA.

A share of the crown claimed by No. 8 Oregon

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Ashley Young

A share of the crown claimed by No. 8 Oregon

How Oregon won: It was a tale of two halves for the Ducks vs. the Arizona State Sun Devils. This one could have got out of hand quickly as Oregon quickly fell into a 26% from the field and 1-7 from three-point range slump in the first quarter. But the No. 8 Oregon Ducks caught heat and finally get a win in Tempe, AZ 57-44 over the Sun Devils. 

Just eight points and gave up five ASU offensive rebounds in the first quarter for Oregon. If it weren’t for the Sun Devils also poor shooting percentage, zero second-chance points, and seven first-half turnovers, Oregon most likely would have been in a bigger hole heading into halftime, but down 25-24.

Oregon coach Kelly Graves must have gave one heck of a pep-talk to his team coming out of halftime. Sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu started the third quarter off with a steal, layup, block, steal, and assist. Ionescu’s vision was insane in the second half as she was finding her counterpart sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard rolling to the basket and getting back to the high-low game the Ducks have so mastered this year. 

Oregon went on an 13-2 run in the closing five minutes of the third quarter to take a 44-33 at the start of the fourth quarter.

The one point deficit turned into a double-digit victory for Oregon.

What it means: With this win, the Ducks have secured at least a share of the Pac-12 title crown heading into one final road game and then the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle, WA the following weekend. Depending on how the rest of the weekend plays out in the Pac-12, with a win on Saturday at the Arizona Wildcats, the Ducks would lock up the No. 1 spot in what is turning out to be a interesting and tough Pac-12 tournament. 

Finishing strong is a necessity, especially with a lurking Stanford (13-3), UCLA (13-4) and Oregon State (12-4) right around the corner.

High flying Ducks: Ionescu lead the way for Oregon with 16 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Hebard and junior guard Maite Cazorla finished with 14 points a piece. Hebard also added six rebounds.

Foul play: Hebard and Freshman Satou Sabally finished with three fouls each

Up next: No. 8 Oregon at the Arizona Wildcats at 11 AM (PT) this Saturday in Tuscon, AZ.

 

Lock down second half defense seals the deal for Oregon

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Lock down second half defense seals the deal for Oregon

How Oregon won: Coming into tonight's game vs. Arizona State, Oregon coach Dana Altman said that they are, "still playing with that confidence, that edge on them...". The hot, spot-up shooting Sun Devils weren't prepared to meet the 23 degree weather and the Oregon Ducks cold front that shut them down. The Ducks played lock-down defense, both on the perimeter and on the inside holding ASU to 28.6% from the field and 25% from three-point range in the second half. Oregon (18-10, 8-7 Pac-12) defeats Arizona State (19-8, 7-8 Pac-12) 75-68 at Matthew Knight Arena in this Pac-12 After Dark showdown.

Altman said following the game, "Our formula for this team hasn't changed much. You know if we out-rebound people and hold them under 70, our success rate has been pretty high. So I thought out defensive transition was good. All the stats: points in the paint, points off turnovers, 2nd chance points, fast break points, we won in all categories. They hit some three's and we didn't, probably the difference."

Pritchard had a solid game on both sides of the ball. Understanding that Arizona State likes to push the ball quickly and will on occasion spot up for a three-pointer in what seems like no time at all, Pritchard stuck like a glove to Sun Devils guard Remy Martin. On the flip side, Pritchard recorded six assitst and zero turnovers, a stat Altman really likes to see.

Pritchard said, "I think defensively, we got hands on balls. Kenny [Wooten] was in there deflecting and blocking shots. We just didn't give them any easy ones, that lead to us getting easy layups in transition and getting stops."

Freshman Kenny Wooten seems to play different under the lights at Matthew Knight Arena. He recorded four more  blocks tonight, where at the Los Angeles schools, Wooten did not record any.

What it means: It was the upper-classmen tonight for Oregon that really stepped up. Leading the way for Oregon was redshirt senior guard Elijah Brown with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. Brown has typically been a spot up three-point shooter for the Ducks this season, but found his shot moreso tonight inside the arc. 

Brown said, "I was just trying to shoot my shot like I shoot in the gym when I'm by myself and I was just really focused and it was a big game for us so I tried to do what I could to help us win."

"A lot of my career I find myself just settling outside the three-point line, and the more I'm able to mix my game up, the more the three will open up. So, it's never too late. We still got some season left. I feel like I figured that out a little bit tonight." 

The Ducks find themselves in the middle of the Pac with just three games left. Earlier in the week, Elijah Brown said that the team, "can still make noise". Oregon will finish the season with one more home game vs. Arizona this Saturday, and one more road trip north next weekend to face Washington and Washington State. It was also reported today that Wildcats star senior Allonzo Trier will be not playing due to "testing positive for a banned substance" by the NCAA, which should make things a little more interesting coming down the stretch in the Pac-12. 

High flying Ducks: Alongside Brown, redhsirt senior MiKyle McIntosh finished with 16 points and five rebounds, redshirt junior Paul White finished with 11 points and six rebounds, and Pritchard finished with nine points. Freshman Troy Brown also added nine points.

Foul play: Troy Brown finished with four fouls and McIntosh and freshman Victor Bailey Jr., recorded three fouls a piece.

Up next: The Ducks will host the No. 14 Arizona Wildcats (22-6, 12-3 Pac-12) in their final home game and on senior night at 7:15 PM (PT) this Saturday at Matthew Knight Arena.

The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 7)...: They replace DL Henry Mondeaux.

The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 7)...: They replace DL Henry Mondeaux.

Oregon's promising 2017 season ended with a wild two weeks that saw Willie Taggart depart for Florida State, coach Mario Cristobal take over the program, recruits decommit left and right and then the Ducks fall flat during a 38-28 loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Still, the 2018 season could see Oregon return to Pac-12 prominence. That is, if a lot of variables play out in the Ducks' favor. We will take a position-by-position look at the team to discuss what must happen in order for Oregon to rise again in 2018. 

Other position entries: QuarterbackRunning backsReceivers/Tight endsOffensive lineDefensive backsLinebackersDefensive line.   

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Today: The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 7)...:They replace DL Henry Mondeaux.

Key losses: Senior Henry Mondeaux was an impact, three-year starter. Also gone are Elijahn George and Scott Pagano, who was limited by injuries after transferring in from Clemson. 

Projected starters: Defensive end Jalen Jelks, RSr., (6-6, 245); Nose Jordon Scott, So., (6-1, 200); defensive end Austin Faoliu (6-3, 289). 

Key backups: Drayton Carlberg, RJr., (6-5, 286); Gary Baker, RJr., (6-3, 325); Hunter Kampmoyer, RSo., (6-4, 272); Malik Young, RSr., (6-2, 301)

What we know: Jelks has blossomed into a star. The ultra-athletic and talented Jelks led the team with both 6 1/2 sacks and 15 tackles for loss last season. He gave the Ducks a pass rusher that they sorely lacked in 2016. He should be all-Pac-12 in 2018, if not make a run at defensive player of the year.

Scott is a beast in the making. As a freshman, he proved to be a valuable run stuffer and pocket destroyer, and he should only get better. 

What we don't know: Faoliu remains a bit of a wild card. There is reason to believe that he will step right in and fill Mondeaux's former spot, but we don't yet know how well he will do in that role full time. 

Plus, the depth situation remains precarious. 

What must happen for Oregon to contend: At the very least, Faoliu must play consistently well. He doesn't need to dominate, just be better than average. If so, Oregon will have one of the best three-man defensive lines in the conference and that will allow the linebackers, where there are some question marks, to flourish. If Faoliu is average, and the depth doesn't come through, the Ducks could have a weakness in play that might prevent them from contending in the Pac-12. 

It’s Almost Tourney Time! PAC-12 Contender And Pretenders

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It’s Almost Tourney Time! PAC-12 Contender And Pretenders

JARREAU BROWN

With the 2018 March Madness tournament seemingly around the corner and a week remaining of conference play, things are starting to shake out in the PAC-12. On paper, heading into the season, the initial thought was there would be 2-3 elite teams with a chance to challenge for a Final Four appearance. While that still may be a possibility, I’m a bit passive on going to Vegas with any of these teams. Arizona and USC were thought to be the two leaders coming into this year with incoming elite prospects and quality returning upperclassmen. Both teams have underachieved; however, I’m still buying stock of one of these teams. These thoughts are solely for PAC-12 regular season and conference tournament, not the NCAA tournament.

 

Contenders

Arizona was the aforementioned letdown team. For NBA fans, if you’ve watched the Cleveland Cavaliers pre-trade play defense, that’s a great summary of how bad the Wildcats can be in spurts. Looking at their roster on paper, it could arguably be the best in college basketball which, makes the team’s inconsistency so perplexing. Maybe they’re a bit bored and sleepwalking into the tournament? I think Sean Miller could benefit from playing the Bahamian Unicorn DeAndre Ayton at center and surrounding him with four guards to space the floor and allow him to operate. The quickness on the court could help some of their defensive woes seeing that Dusan Ristic is a true liability. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a 2017 Duke-type run, winning the PAC-12 tournament minus the round of 32 exit.

One team that seems to be putting it together is UCLA after a dominant performance against Arizona at the McKale Center. The key to this team is the 32nd Holiday brother (at least it feels like it) Aaron. He should easily be a top candidate for conference player of the year. Jalen Hands seems to be finding his groove and they’re 12-2 when he scores in double figures—crazy right? They’re not as talented as the previous team, but the good news is there’s no team in the conference that’s separated itself from the pack.

 

Pretenders

What’s wrong with USC? Can anyone realistically answer that? They didn’t lose much of anything from their ’17 team that made a tournament run and they added Duke transfer Derryck Thornton. They returned three of their top contributors, Bennie Boatwright, Jordan McLaughlin, and Chimezie Metu. The rock bottom point was their three-game road skid. With Boatwright being out for the season, I don’t expect them to get out of this hole.

“Life comes at you fast” is a great summary of Arizona State’s seasonWhether it’s the pressure or thinking they’re better than they actually are, their day in the sun has passed. After early-season wins against Xavier and Kansas, I think everyone was sipping the Kool-Aid. But the loss to Arizona was the precursor for what was to come. The biggest difference has been their inability to close games out. If you combine the second-half totals of their seven conference losses, they’ve been outscored 272-259. Not the widest of margins, but it adds up in a conference that plays tight games consistently.

I’m on the fence about the Washington Huskies and Oregon Ducks. When the Huskies parted ways with Lorenzo Romar, most thought there’d be a drop-off. But new head coach Mike Hopkins has brought new energy into the program. They’ve got quality wins against Arizona, Kansas on the road, and USC.  The Ducks seem to be getting their footing and a lot can be attributed to Troy Brown asserting himself and looking more like the 5-star prospect. It’ll be interesting to see how both squads close out their seasons.

Oregon flying on hope and a prayer. Fall 0-2 on the weekend

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Oregon flying on hope and a prayer. Fall 0-2 on the weekend

How Oregon lost: The Ducks needed every minute of a 40-minute fight. It started out as both the Ducks and the Bruins catching fire from behind the arc, each team shooting 50-55% from three-point range in the first half. But then, a guy named Aaron Holiday, brother of NBA players Jrue Holiday (New Orleans Pelicans) and Justin Holiday (Chicago Bulls) stole the show. It was one heck of a fight from Oregon to reach overtime, but the Holiday came early as Oregon (17-10, 7-7 Pac-12) falls 86-78 (OT) to UCLA (18-8, 9-5 Pac-12) in Los Angeles, CA.

A valiant second half effort from Oregon lead by sophomore guard Payton Pritchard’s 23 points on 4-of-9 from three-point range and dished out five assists. But it was also Pritchard’s defense on Holiday that forced Holiday to exit the game with four fouls with 11:45 to go in the second half. During that time with Holiday on the bench, the Ducks went on a 13-0 run, with Pritchard and redshirt senior guard Elijah Brown heating up from behind the arc and redshirt senior MiKyle McIntosh getting it done both on the inside and outside. The Ducks defense stepped up too creating six Bruins turnovers, bringing the score to 61-59, Oregon lead.

From that point on, it was back-and-forth all the way through regulation. But UCLA, on its home court and on senior night, took care of business lead by Holiday’s 29-point performance.

What it means: The Ducks will return home having gone 0-2 over the weekend. Before the weekend began, the Ducks sat at the number four spot in the Pac-12 rankings, behind Arizona, UCLA, and USC. But dropping to both USC and UCLA now puts the Ducks in the middle of the Pac, and putting even more of an emphasis on these next four games being must-wins. There are seven Pac-12 teams all within two games of one another. 

Just two weekends to go: a home-stand vs. the Arizona State Sun Devils and Arizona Wildcats, and then rounding out conference play on the road north at Washington and Washington State. And then the mini-madness begins in Las Vegas, NV for the Pac-12 tournament, which the Ducks will need a strong showing to be even considered for the NCAA tournament.

High flying Ducks: Elijah Brown finished with 19 points. McIntosh almost recorded another double-double and finished with 19 points and added nine rebounds.

Foul play: McIntosh recorded four fouls.

Up next: The Ducks return home to host the Arizona State Sun Devils (19-7, 7-7 Pac-12) at 8:30 PM (PT) on Thursday at Matthew Knight Arena.

It takes two (OT's) to make a thing go right

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Ashley Young

It takes two (OT's) to make a thing go right

How Oregon won: It wasn't easy and it was pretty, but the Oregon Ducks managed a huge win in front of their screaming Ducks fans at Matthew Knight Arena Friday night. The Ducks had to fight fire with fire, grit with grit, for a full 40 minutes, and that still wasn't enough against the USC Trojans. In fact, it took 50 minutes, two overtime thrillers, another PERFECT shooting from the field game from sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard, and a few clutch three-pointers from senior guard Lexi Bando for the No. 9 Ducks (24-4, 13-2 Pac-12) to down the USC Trojans (17-9, 7-8 Pac-12) 80-74. 

Oregon coach Kelly Graves said, "We weren't at our best tonight, but give USC credit, they played hard. I thought in that first half, we just didn't take care of the ball and when made them play in the half court, we did a great job. But we can't give up those layups in transition. Or stupid turnovers. Down the stretch we made a couple key stops, and I thought maybe we're the more conditioned in that second ovetime. I thought we looked a little fresher, they made some mental and physical mistakes, and we were lucky enough to capitalize on the win."

What it means: The Ducks recorded 24 team turnovers, gave up 31 points off those turnovers, had the ball stolen 19 times, and still won the game, granted it took two overtime's. Those two statments don't always mix in a positive way. Oregon started off with two turnovers on bad passes down low that lead to open layups for the Trojans. Not a good start for Graves and the Ducks. Oregon had zero fastbreak points compared to USC's 17. They will have to maintain better control of the ball with the season rapidly coming to a close and the Ducks needing every win to secure that No. 1 seed heading into the Pac-12 tournament the first week of March. 

USC gets after loose balls, plays tough, pressure on-ball defense, and tries to get in its opponents heads. And it worked. Oregon only scored five points in the second quarter, and struggled in its final possessions to even get a good look at the hoop. 

Bando said, "They're a team that we kind of don't like to play because of the turnovers they do cause. You know, the fast paced game. But we pulled out the win and you just got to move past this and just be happy with it for tonight."

High flying Ducks: Ruthy Hebard finished another night of perfect shooting. Hebard records 27 points on 12-for-12 from the field and added 10 rebounds. That brings her total points to 86 points over the last three games. Junior guard Maite Cazorla finished with 17 points hitting 4-for-7 from three-point range. Sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu, who was shadowed the whole night, was kept to a quiet 15 points but also grabbed nine rebounds. Bando finished with 11 points going 3-of-5 from three-point range.

Foul play: Mallory McGwire finished with four fouls.

Up next: Oregon stays home to host the No. 7 UCLA Bruins (21-5, 12-3 Pac-12) at 7 PM (PT) on Monday night at Matthew Night Arena.

Thursday was a rough day for Northwest teams in Pac-12 Basketball

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Thursday was a rough day for Northwest teams in Pac-12 Basketball

By Sebastian Pycior

The Washington Huskies season continues its nosedive following last night’s loss against the Utah Utes. In fact, maybe this loss should have been predicted, as the results nearly matched the outcome of the last meeting between the two teams. The Utes beat the Huskies 70 – 58 last night on Montlake.

Noah Dickerson was completely shut down by the Utes’ defense, and the Huskies struggled to find any offense during this game. Besides David Crisp’s 18 points, no other Husky finished with more than 9 points.

Barring a PAC-12 tournament win from the Huskies, it doesn’t look like the Huskies will be attending March Madness this season, most likely finding themselves in the National Invitation Tournament instead. However, this has still been a successful season for this Husky team, especially under the guidance under new coach Mike Hopkins. The Huskies take on Colorado on Saturday evening.

Down in Southern California, the Oregon Ducks tragically fell short of upending the USC Trojans. Tied 70 – 70 in the final seconds, the Ducks trap defense was exposed as USC guard Jordan McLaughlin lobbed the ball to Chimezie Metu, who was waiting in the short corner behind Oregon’s MiKyle McIntosh.

McIntosh came up big for the Ducks, piling up 23 points. Sure the Ducks could’ve played better defense so as to not allow 70 points, but they also were well rounded on the offensive side of the ball. Pritchard contributed 17 points in the effort.

The Ducks have another tough matchup against UCLA this Saturday. If the Ducks can bounce back and regain momentum heading into next week, they have a decent chance at beating both Arizona teams.

As of now, the Ducks might have a better path to March Madness than the Huskies. This team only suffered one bad loss against the Stanford Cardinal a couple of weeks ago, but have largely stayed competitive in most of their games. The Huskies on the other hand, were easily handled by the Ducks, Gonzaga, Virginia Tech, twice to Utah, and to UCLA. For Washington, wins against Kansas and Arizona won’t be enough to overcome a bunch of blowouts.

Moving forward, both coaches need to find a way to motivate their players after tough losses. For the Huskies, they need Matisse Thybulle and Jaylen Nowell to start hitting shots from three point range again. They combined to make just 3 shots from downtown against the Utes, which didn’t help opening up the paint.

The Ducks suffered another loss at the buzzer, so they need to take this game against USC as another learning opportunity on how to finish games. Hindsight is forever 20/20, but coach Dana Altman should have had his team in a man-to-man defense through the end of regulation instead of disguising his trap defense. Altman had the Ducks start the final play in man defense, until McLaughlin broke away. It seemed as Altman knew exactly what the play was going to be, since the Ducks reacted to the breakaway on point. The Ducks sent both guards to chase the ball, while having their other three players sit in a zone defense.

Zone defenses puts too much trust on each player’s peripheral abilities instead of just having each one of your own defenders matchup individually. It’s important to make sure each offensive player gets knocked out of their desired path, and USC’s Metu got to the basket untouched after Oregon’s attempt at trapping McLaughlin.

It was a tough lesson today for Pacific Northwest basketball, and maybe there’s a miracle in the works for both of these teams. Both Hopkins and Altman will need to quickly reset before the weekend in order to keep any hope at March Madness alive.