The Oregon Ducks suffered the program’s worst NCAA Tournament loss in 19 years on Sunday evening in an 82-68 loss to the USC Trojans.
After the game, Oregon head coach Dana Altman put the blame squarely on his shoulders.
"I let the guys down," expained Altman. "I didn't have them ready for that zone. I thought we were. But their length and athleticism really bothered us. And we just didn't have good ball movement."
Oregon, who led the Pac-12 in three-point shooting at 37.9%, shot just 23.8% from three-point range and 37.7% for the game. USC was able to sell out on the Ducks three-point shooters and funnel any drives towards future NBA Draft lottery pick Evan Mobley to contest any shots. That combined with the Trojans zone defense gave Oregon all sorts of trouble.
"Our guys tried to take too many shots off the dribble against that length and kind of dug ourselves a hole," added Altman.
Oregon trailed by 16 points at halftime.
In fact, the duo of Eugene Omoruyi and Chris Duarte scored 49 of the Ducks' 68 points. No other Oregon player scored more than eight which was freshman Franck Kepnang in 10 minutes.
Altman admitted he made a mistake not rolling with the freshman sooner, as he finished a +1 for the game. That was dramatically better than any of the 6'6" starters going against USC's length.
"I made a mistake," he said. "I said the first half, because they were in the zone and Franck hasn't worked much against the zone, I thought we needed offense. We put him in there for a while and it didn't help us defensively. And I didn't play him long enough. I didn't give him a long enough opportunity that first half.
"And so again the offensive things that he did, he got us a couple of rebounds. He kept the ball alive a couple of times. He just was a presence in there. And his energy defensively gave us a big lift... I know Franck's a talented young man. I love his energy. And I think he's got a big future."
As for the other three Oregon starters, Will Richardson, Eric Williams Jr. and LJ Figueroa all struggled and combined for just 11 points on 4-27 shooting.
"I don't know," answered Altman when asked what caused the rest of the team to struggle. "I thought Eric took some tough shots that first half. LJ just never seemed to get comfortable. Will had been scoring well. So, again, the zone didn't allow us to move the ball. Again, some of the shots early off the dribble, I thought took some guys out of their rhythm."
Despite the unfortunate ending, Altman is proud of the season his players persevered through.
"I told them one game doesn't define us,” Altman said. “We had a nice year. We did a lot of good things. And I love the guys' perseverance, fighting through two pauses. I mean, it's a tough year. It was a tough year on everybody.
"I'm very proud of them for sticking together, fighting through, winning 21 ball games, winning the conference championship, playing very well against Iowa. But they were all very disappointed in the way we played. And I wanted them to remember some of the good things.
"We just didn't play well," concluded Altman. "USC did. USC beat us. They've got a very talented team."
Oregon remains just one of four teams nationally to have 11 consecutive 20-win seasons, joining Kansas, Belmont, and Gonzaga: a streak it will look to continue next season.