Oregon Ducks

Oregon's Chris Boucher is devastated but supportive

Oregon's Chris Boucher is devastated but supportive

KANSAS CITY - Oregon senior forward Chris Boucher expected to be an integral part of the Ducks' run at a Final Four appearance. 

His shot blocking, rebounding, inside and outside scoring prowess figured to help UO make such a run. Then, it all came crashing down for Boucher while attempting to block a shot against California during the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament two weekends ago in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The next day, Boucher was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. He since has been relegated to cheerleader while the No. 3 Ducks (32-5) have carved out a path to the Elite Eight where they will face No. 1 Kansas (31-4) on Saturday night. 

"Well, it's been hard for sure, but seeing my team getting into the tournament and all covers for it a little bit," Boucher said today during media availability at the Sprint Center. "You always want to be on the floor and play. Definitely hurts sometimes to watch them do it so good and you can't do anything about it."

Senior guard Dylan Ennis can relate. He missed virtually all of last season with a foot injury that forced him to watch Oregon reach the Elite Eight without him. 

"As a senior, I know how hard it is and lucky I got my year back, but him going through this his senior year he's been a big part of this and especially with him on the bench he's so encouraging and he's taken that role as being the next coach, that positive reinforcement," Ennis said. "So everything he is doing we can't be more grateful for him."

Oregon lost the Pac-12 Tournament championship game to Arizona without Boucher, but has won three NCAA Tournament games since. Still, it's obvious that the Ducks miss his 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game. Losing him has placed more pressure on junior forward Jordan Bell to protect the rim. 

"We lost our advantage with the blocks with Chris," Altman said. "We were averaging almost seven blocks a game with him, and I think in the four games without him now I think we have eight total. So Jordan has become a little less aggressive with his blocks, trying to stay out of foul trouble. He's done a great job of picking up rebounding. Chris was our second leading rebounder and third leading scorer besides being the guy who blocked the most shots. Defensively we've slipped. Our numbers in the last four games are not as good as they were previous to him going down. So we've tried to make up for that a little bit offensively."

To do what he can, Boucher said he watches games intently looking for details he can pass on to teammates. 

"I'm just trying to help my team and tell them what I could see from the bench and they could go from there," Boucher said.

It's something, but not what Boucher and Ducks had planned for his role to be during this this time of the season. 

Social media reacts to Sabrina Ionescu's tribute to Kobe Bryant: ‘Rest easy my guy’

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NBCS Northwest

Social media reacts to Sabrina Ionescu's tribute to Kobe Bryant: ‘Rest easy my guy’

“Wake up, grind and get better." That was the message Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant had for Sabrina Ionescu.

Now, the Oregon women’s basketball star is paying tribute to her mentor and his daughter Gianna, who were tragically killed in a helicopter accident last month.

At the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Ionescu eloquently spoke about why she idolized Bryant and how his daughter, Gigi, was the future of women’s sports.

Here’s a look at how social media reacted as Ionescu paid tribute to Kobe and Gigi in an arena filled with legends:

Ionescu will now catch a plane and head to Palo Alto to rejoin the Oregon women's basketball team. The No. 3 Ducks take on No. 4 Stanford at 6:00 p.m. 

WATCH: Sabrina Ionescu speaks at Kobe and Gianna Bryant Memorial

WATCH: Sabrina Ionescu speaks at Kobe and Gianna Bryant Memorial

It's been less than a month since Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others tragically passed away in a helicopter accident on January 26, 2020. 

Less than two hours before Sabrina Ionescu and the Oregon Ducks were going to play then-No. 9 Oregon State on the road, both teams learned about the passing of Kobe and his daughter. The two teams shared a moment of silence shortly after.

The Ducks, especially Ionescu, had spent time with the Bryants and gotten close to in the past year. Kobe and Gianna attended multiple Ducks games when Oregon traveled to California.

Wearing Kobe's signature shoe with "Forever 24" written on the heels, Ionescu would play all 40 minutes of the Civil War and leave victorious to sweep the season series against Oregon State.

After the game, Sabrina dedicated the rest of the season to Kobe in a postgame interview with ESPN.

I mean, everything I do, I do it for him obviously. Really close friend and this season’s for him.

Staples Center hosted a public memorial for Kobe and Gianna Bryant on 2/24 in honor of Kobe and Gianna's basketball numbers of No. 2 and No 24.

At the memorial, Ionescu gave an emotional speech about how both of them had greatly affected her. She started off the speech detailing the first time she met them when they surprised the Ducks by sitting courtside when they played at USC. Ionescu thought the surprise was going to be "Nike sent us some new shoes or swag or something."

When Kobe, Gianna and two of her teammates entered the arena, "they sat courtside while [Sabrina's] jaw sat dropped." 

After the game, they visited the Ducks locker room and Kobe gave them advice she's never forgotten. 

He congratulated me on the win that day and our season up until that point, but then said, and I'll never forget, 'Don't shoot yourselves in the foot.' He meant don't settle. Keep grinding, Control what you can.

Ionescu also remembered watching Gianna smile in the locker room and that Sabrina had watched film on her: "She had a fadeaway better than mine." However, Ionescu knew that Gianna was more than just a basketball prodigy, she was the future of the women's game.

If I represented the present of the women's game, Gigi was the future and Kobe knew it. So we decided to build a future together.

Sabrina would work out twice with Gianna and Kobe over the summer.

"I loved watching how hard she worked and how much her teammates loved her, but also her own desire to be great. She always wanted to learn, to go to every game she could: college, NBA, WNBA. Kobe was helping her with that because he saw it in her. Just like he saw it in me.

"His vision for others is always bigger than what they imagine for themselves. His vision for me was way bigger than my own. More importantly, he didn't show up in my life and leave. He stayed. We kept in touch, always texting, calling, game visits. I'd drop a triple-double and have a text from him 'Another triple-double I see' with a flex emoji. Another game another text: 'Yo beast mode' or 'Easy money'. I felt some pressure early on in the season and he wrote to me 'Be you. It's been good enough and that will continue to be good enough.'"

Kobe would teach Sabrina his stepback to put her game over the top and helped her with her footwork, a Kobe specialty: "'Real sharpness comes without effort' he said. ...He was giving me the blueprint. He was giving Gigi the same blueprint."

Kobe reassured Sabrina that her drive to be the best was an asset, not a curse. 

He united us. He made it so that the outsiders who outworked everyone else, who were driven to be just a little bit different every single day, to make those around them, behind them and above them a little bit better every single day. And they weren't the exception. They were the rule.

Sabrina, the face of women's college basketball, is doing it not only for herself, but also for the women that come after her. 

I wanted to be a part of the generation that changed basketball for Gigi and her teammates. Where being born female didn't mean being born behind. Where greatness wasn't divided by gender. 

Ionescu still texts Kobe despite his passing: "'Thank you for everything. The rest is for you. Rest easy my guy.' The last one I sent him said 'I miss you. May you rest in peace my dear friend.'" 

To close out her speech, Sabrina had an emotional plea to all those watching.

I ask each of you, every girldad, every human here with a voice, a platform, and a heart, to not let his sun set. Shine for us. For our sport where he once did. Invest in us with the same passion and drive and respect and love as he did his own daughter. In the end she was a sun just starting to rise and god did she glow. May their light forever shine. Kobe and Gigi I'll love you forever. Thank you.

Ionescu will travel to the Bay Area to play No. 4 Stanford tonight at 6:00 p.m. after the conclusion of the memorial.

You can watch the full interview embedded above.

What you need to know: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 4 Stanford (round two)

What you need to know: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 4 Stanford (round two)

Let’s rewind the clock back to week four of Pac-12 conference play. It was a Thursday night in Eugene, Oregon with the No. 3 Stanford Cardinal in town to battle the No. 6 seed Oregon Ducks. A nationally televised game with big national relevance. 

The Cardinal had the lead after one quarter, 17-13. And that was about it for Stanford. The Ducks outscored the Cardinal 74-38 the rest of the way behind Sabrina Ionescu’s 37 points.

A 32-point victory over the No. 3 team in the country, and the Ducks were rolling.

Since then, much has changed for both squads.

Stanford is without star freshman Haley Jones, who suffered a knee injury days later against the No. 8 Oregon State Beavers. She has yet to return to the court. However, 6-foot-3 forward Maya Dodson has returned from injury and proven to be an asset on both the offensive and defensive ends.

For the Ducks, they just seem to be getting better and better. Since their first meeting on Jan. 16, Oregon has played top opponents week after week: Twice against then-No. 7 Oregon State, at No. 4 UConn, No. 12 Arizona, No. 19 Arizona State and at No. 7 UCLA.

Their strength of schedule has only benefited the Ducks in terms of national ranking as well as preparation for whose next.

Could we be previewing the Pac-12 Tournament finals coming up in just a few short weeks in Las Vegas, Nevada? Possibly. But make no mistake, there’s no guarantee in this challenging conference. We do know one thing, it’s going to be a good one. 

Oregon (25-2, 14-1 Pac-12) and Stanford (24-3, 13-2 Pac-12) sit atop the Pac-12 conference standings at one and two. Oregon can clinch a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title with a win over the Cardinal.

Looking ahead, Stanford’s final weekend of conference play is a trip to No. 11 Arizona and No. 21 Arizona State. The Ducks will host the Washington schools. Advantage Oregon.

Here is what you need to know about the game tonight:

NUMBERS TO KNOW

POINTS PER GAME

Oregon - 85.9

Stanford - 75.9

SCORING MARGIN

Oregon - 28.8

Stanford - 16.7

REBOUNDS PER GAME

Oregon - 40.3

Stanford - 42.3

ASSISTS PER GAME

Oregon - 21.0

Stanford - 15.4

KEYS TO AN OREGON VICTORY

Contain Kiana Williams. This has probably been the best stretch Williams has played all season long. In their first meeting, Williams was the leading scorer for Stanford with 15 points. She loves to get out and run and push the pace. Against the Colorado Buffaloes last Sunday, she finished with 29 points including two three-pointers in the final 10 seconds that gave Stanford the victory.

A key to slowing her down is Minyon Moore, who has been heckling opposing guards all season long. Moore will have to do it again against Williams.

Take the crowd out early. A big advantage for Oregon in their first matchup was having the Matthew Knight Arena near-sellout crowd backing them up. It’s a different story when you’re the road team. The last time the Ducks were in Maples Pavilion, they won by 40 (88-48). Stanford may be looking for a bit of revenge in more ways than one.

How you do that? Oregon’s offense has been stellar lately with Erin Boley finding her outside shot. When opposing squads send double teams down low on Ruthy Hebard, Oregon and Boley need to capitalize with hitting three-pointers. Luckily for the Ducks, Boley has been on a tear lately hitting 15 three-pointers in their last two outings.

GAME INFORMATION

WHO: No. 3 Oregon at No. 4 Stanford 

WHEN: Monday, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. (PT)

WHERE: Maples Pavilion, Palo Alto, California.

TV: ESPN2

RADIO: Oregon Sports Network

Oregon WR Juwan Johnson confirms he's a physical specimen at NFL Combine

Oregon WR Juwan Johnson confirms he's a physical specimen at NFL Combine

Anyone who has seen Oregon wide receiver Juwan Johnson take the field before knows he’s a big dude.

At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Johnson is one of the largest wideouts at the NFL Combine this year and his measurables prove it.

According to the NFL Draft’s official Twitter, Johnson led all wide receivers in longest arms, longest wingspan and largest hands. 

Johnson transferred to Oregon from Penn State in 2019, but injuries derailed his Ducks career early on. He went on to appear in 10 of Oregon’s 14 games, catching 30 passes for 467 yards and four touchdowns. He helped lead the Ducks to a victory in the Rose Bowl. His 66 yards were the most of any player on either team.

Johnson's large body frame and ability to shield defenders makes him a valuable asset to scouts looking for bigger types at the wide receiver position.

While his onfield portion of the combine will likely gain attention, the bench press will be perhaps his most anticipated event. The receiver recently announced he’ll be using the NFL Combine bench press to raise donations for Uplifting Athletes, a charity that assists the rare disease community. He hopes to raise $2,000 by completing at least 14 reps during the bench press.

Johnson joins quarterback Justin Herbert, tight end Jacob Breeland, linebacker Troy Dye, as well as offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton, Jake Hanson and Shane Lemieux in one of the largest classes of draft hopefuls the Ducks have ever had participate in the NFL Combine.

Sabrina Ionescu pens letter to Oregon: ‘Let’s go take that unfinished business and finish it’

Sabrina Ionescu pens letter to Oregon: ‘Let’s go take that unfinished business and finish it’

Sabrina Ionescu could have chosen any day to write a letter to the Ducks community. 

But Monday, February 24 won’t go down as just any day for the Oregon women’s basketball star. It’s the day a public memorial will be held at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles for Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were among nine killed in a tragic helicopter accident last month. 

Ionescu is expected to speak at the service before catching a flight north to rejoin her teammates in Palo Alto for a game against No. 4 Stanford. 

In a letter with The Players’ Tribune, Ionescu opened up about her decision to remain at Oregon to help build something special, and how without words, Kobe made it clear she had made the right decision. 

He saw the pressure that we were about to face this year as a privilege. A challenge to overcome. And the fact that it was scary to me at first?? He saw that as an opportunity. Harnessing your fear as an opportunity to learn something new about yourself — that’s Mamba Mentality 101. And I took it to heart.

Ionescu harnessed that Mamba Mentality this season with her Ducks team, who currently sit No. 3 in the women’s college basketball rankings. They’ve overcome a lot of challenges: shocking team USA, beating UConn and sweeping Oregon State. 

But no matter how the season finishes, Ionescu is proud of what she’s helped build at Oregon and the community who has rallied around her since the very beginning. 

It’s been a year I’ll remember forever, but it’s also been bittersweet. Because on one hand, I’m sitting here writing you this letter, Ducks Nation, and I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished together. I’m so proud of how we’ve met our expectations head-on, and contended for another Pac-12 title, and — even with this high-pressure target on our back — stayed right near the top of the polls all season long. I’m so proud of how we’ve put ourselves in the perfect position to reach our second straight Final Four, and beyond.

Ionescu will take the next step of her basketball journey without one of her biggest mentors, but she knows their two paths crossed for a reason. 

“Kobe always saw the bigger picture,” Ionsecu wrote. “That was clear with everything he did in his life — but to me it was especially clear with the way that he looked at and treated the game of women’s basketball. He didn’t see growing the game with girls as his hobby, or as some side project, or as a charity case. He saw it as a movement. And he didn’t get involved because he just wanted to be a fan of our movement. He got involved because he wanted to be a part of it.”

While the world mourns the loss of Bryant, Ionescu knows what Kobe and others have instilled in her is so much more than Mamba Mentality for girls, it’s Mamba Mentality, period. 

Oregon has a must-win game against No. 4 Stanford on Monday to clinch its third-straight Pac-12 title. If the Ducks come away victorious, Oregon will have the top seed heading into the Pac-12 Tournament. 

As Ionescu knows, there’s still a lot of work to be done. 

“Let’s go take that unfinished business and finish it.”

NFL Combine profile: Oregon QB Justin Herbert

NFL Combine profile: Oregon QB Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert

Position: Quarterback
Year: Senior 
Hometown: Eugene, Oregon

Measurables: 

Height: 6’6 2/8" 

Weight: 236 pounds

Hand: 10"

Overview

When quarterback Justin Herbert chose to forgo the NFL Draft in 2019 and return to Oregon for his senior year: his aspirations were clear. He had unfinished business with the Ducks.

One year later, Herbert is one of the premier quarterbacks in the illustrious 2020 NFL Draft class and is coming off a stellar finish to his four years with the Ducks. The Eugene native led Oregon to a 12-2 record, a Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl victory. The pre-draft process is off to a solid start for the 6-foot-6, 225 pound quarterback, who was named Senior Bowl MVP.

Herbert has all the tools needed to become a franchise quarterback, but presents some consistency issues that we will talk about below that bring concern to NFL scouts.

Draft projections

Most mock drafts have Herbert as the third quarterback to be selected in the NFL draft class. Pro Football Focus, NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, Sporting News, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller and CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson all believe Herbert will be selected with the No. 6 overall pick held by the Los Angeles Chargers.

NFL comparison:

Andrew Luck and John Elway

Strengths

- Protypical size
- High football IQ (4.01 GPA)
- Big time arm with quick release
- Pocket presence
- Ability to use his legs

Weaknesses

- Doesn’t keep his eyes up to extend plays
- Inaccurate throws due to improper setting of feet
- Oregon’s first-read offense limited the amount of progressions to one side of the field for Herbert

Did Payton Pritchard just lock up the Pac-12 Player of the Year award?

Did Payton Pritchard just lock up the Pac-12 Player of the Year award?

Payton Pritchard is on another level this season.

The Portland-native from West Linn High School is averaging 20.1 points 5.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds in his senior season for the Ducks.

On Saturday against the Arizona Wildcats, Pritchard carried the Ducks in regulation dropping a new career-high 38 points in Tucson. He shot 12-for-27 from the field, 6-for-14 from 3-PT range, a perfect 8-for-8 from the FT line as well as dishing out six assists and grabbing four rebounds.

It was a miraculous performance.

But it begged the question: did this performance lock Pritchard in for the Pac-12 Player of the Year award?

Many on social media think so...

Another name in Pac-12 POY contention is Arizona State's Remy Martin, who is averaging 17.9 points, 4.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds this season for the first place Sun Devils. 

The conference awards are released before the Pac-12 Tournament. 

Instant Analysis: Payton Pritchard drops new career-high in OT win vs. Arizona

Instant Analysis: Payton Pritchard drops new career-high in OT win vs. Arizona

It is a tight race at the top of the Pac-12 standings with four teams tied for first and the Oregon Ducks just half a game out of first. Coming off a loss at Arizona State on Thursday night, the Ducks were going to need every bit of offense and a valiant effort on defense against the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson on Saturday.

Well, the offense was there, but only from Payton Pritchard, who dropped a new career-high 38 points. 

Arizona’s Josh Green missed two free throws with five seconds left and this game was headed for overtime (the second time this season these two teams needed overtime to determine a winner).

In overtime, all nine points came from Shakur Juiston. That took immense pressure off of Pritchard on the offensive end. An offensive rebound from Will Richardson and drive to his left drew two Arizona players leaving Juiston open under the basket for a layup that put Oregon up by one with 1.4 seconds left. Game over.

No. 14 Oregon (21-7, 10-5 Pac-12) survives in OT over No. 24 Arizona (19-8, 9-5 Pac-12) and moves into a tie for second in the Pac-12 conference standings with UCLA and No. 18 Colorado.

FINAL SCORE (OT): Oregon 73, Arizona 72 

Here are three quick takeaways from the game:

1. BIG TIME PRITCHARD

Payton Pritchard opened up the game with a three-pointer, and then scored the next four points for Oregon. He scored 10 of Oregon’s first 13 points.

“It’s like having Steph Curry on your team,” said Bill Walton on the call.

Well, maybe not exactly but Pritchard was feeling it tonight. He pored in a new career high 38 points hitting 12-of-27 from the field and 6-of-14 from 3-PT range.

He scored just under half of Oregon’s total points.

Pritchard is averaging 19.4 points, 5.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game in his senior season.

2. ANTHONY MATHIS

Head coach Dana Altman has a big weapon in Anthony Mathis coming off the bench. Mathis has the ability to hit the outside shot and when he does, feed him the ball. Against Arizona, he and Pritchard kept Oregon in the game early hitting 3-of-5 from 3-PT range in the first half and finished with 11 points.

Mathis Pritchard were the only two Ducks to finish in double figures in regulation time. 

3. OVERTIME JUISTON

Redshirt senior Shakur Juiston just needed an overtime period to get it going on the offensive end. Before overtime, he recorded just five points, but score all of Oregon’s points in overtime (9) and finished with 14.

Arizona went 10-for-21 from the free throw line, including missing two late in regulation and missing two with one second left in overtime.

UP NEXT: It’s Civil War part two against rival Oregon State (15-12, 5-10 Pac-12) on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. (PT) at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball a perfect home record for full calendar year

Oregon football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball a perfect home record for full calendar year

Eugene, Oregon. A place that is quiet, surrounded by lush trees and roaring rivers, where you can find weird donuts and plenty of lumber.

It's also a place where opposing teams come to lose.

Autzen Stadium, home of Oregon football, is one of the loudest if not THE loudest stadium in the Pac-12 featuring sold out after sold out crowds. The stadium seats 54,000 which doesn’t include staying room tickets sold.

The last time Oregon football lost at home was vs. Stanford on September 22, 2018 (38-31 in OT).

Across the river is Matthew Knight Arena, home to Oregon men’s and women’s basketball. The arena seats 12,364. 

The last time Oregon men’s basketball lost at home was vs. Washington in Pac-12 conference play on January 24, 2019 (61-56).

The last time Oregon women’s basketball lost at home was exactly one year ago to UCLA on February 22 (74-69).

These three programs are a combined 39-0 in the past calendar year.

Home court/field advantage is for real and especially in Eugene.

Oregon fans love their Ducks!