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Published: March 6, 2011
Following a disappointing weekend in Eugene, the Duck basketball team headed to Arizona for the last two games of conference play. Oregon through the first sixteen games of conference play had a seven-win and nine-loss record, which was good for seventh in the league. Getting a split out of the Arizona road trip would be considered a success and hopefully give the Ducks some momentum for the Pac-10 tournament.
First up on the schedule was a visit to Wells Fargo Arena for a Thursday night game against conference cellar dweller Arizona State. Arizona State had already beaten the Ducks in Eugene earlier in the year but besides that win the Sun Devils had only notched one other conference win. Due to this Oregon fans were hoping to get a victory in Tempe against the Sun Devils before heading to Tucson on Saturday where they would face the conference leading Arizona Wildcats.
Arizona State started the game on fire from behind the three-point line and this was a trend that continued throughout the night as the Sun Devils cruised to a twenty point victory over the Ducks. Senior guards Rihards Kuksiks and Ty Abbot led Arizona State by combining for 44 points together on 13 of 27 shooting from behind the three-point line. This game marked the second straight game that the Ducks allowed opposing shooters to get good looks and as a result the Sun Devils set a season high with sixteen made three pointers. The Sun Devils jumped out to an early lead in the opening minutes and at the half they had extended their advantage to eleven points behind their hot shooting. Oregon did cut the deficit down to six points at the nine-minute mark before allowing the Sun Devils to close the game on a 22-8 run. The Ducks shot an abysmal 29.6 percent from the field (16 of 54) and 34.5 percent (10 of 29) from the three-point line. Once again the Ducks relied too much on outside shots as evidenced by only making six field goals that weren’t three pointers. Jay-R Strowbridge and Garret Sim were the only Ducks to make it to double figures registering 17 and 10 points respectively. The 73 to 53 defeat at the hands of the Sun Devils sent the Ducks to their third straight conference loss and all but assured that the Ducks wouldn’t be getting a first round bye in the conference tournament.
Following their twenty-point loss to the Sun Devils the Oregon basketball team headed to Tucson to face the Arizona Wildcats on their senior day. As an added bonus on their senior day if the Wildcats beat the Ducks they would clinch the outright Pac-10 conference crown. The Ducks were also looking to even the season series against the Wildcats after falling in Eugene 76 to 57 in late December. The Ducks continued to have issues with defending the outside shot as Arizona junior guard Kyle Fogg drained his first three three-point attempts, which gave the Wildcats an early 9 to 3 lead. This put Dana Altman and the Ducks in an early hole that they struggled to get out of for most of the first half which ended with the Ducks trailing by nine points. The Wildcats quickly expanded their lead in the second half and with just under seventeen minutes still left to play the Ducks trailed the Wildcats by seventeen points. A quick five points by Joevan Catron gave the Ducks some hope, Oregon did cut the lead to six points on multiple occasions, but in the end the Wildcat lead was just too much to overcome. Catron in his final Pac-10 regular season game was magnificent in amassing 28 points on only 15 shots. Also guard Malcolm Armstead continued his strong play as of late by turning in a 12 point and 11 assist effort. Last but not least junior forward Tyrone Nared might have only taken two shots but both attempts were highlight dunks as the Ducks attempted to cut down the 17-point Wildcat lead. The shooting effort was much stronger this game as Oregon shot 51.7 percent (30 of 58) from the field but on the downside the Ducks allowed Arizona to shoot a more impressive 53.8 percent (28 of 52) from the field. Led by the shooting efforts of Fogg the Wildcats were able to shoot 44 percent (11 of 25) from behind the three-point line. Some good news for Oregon on the defensive end was they were able to hold Arizona star Derrick Williams, who will likely be a top five NBA selection this coming summer, to only 14 points. Williams has been on a tear as of late and this is a good sign for a Duck defense that has been struggling.
Unfortunately leaving the confines of Matt Knight Arena didn’t reverse the Ducks recent fortunes as the Ducks leave the state of Arizona with a four game losing streak. These most recent losses leaves the Ducks with a final conference record of seven wins and eleven losses and depending on later results will either give the Ducks the seventh or eighth seed in the Pac-10 tournament. If the Ducks end up with the seventh seed they will be facing last place Arizona State on Wednesday, which might be bad news considering that the Ducks are winless in two attempts against the Sun Devils this year. If Stanford ends up passing the Ducks for the seventh seed that would mean that the Ducks would be gearing up for part three of the Civil War against the Beavers. This is probably the matchup the Ducks would prefer, considering the Ducks swept the regular season Civil War games, but it all depends on Stanford’s result later this Saturday.
This was the second straight winless weekend for the Ducks and unfortunately it seems that the Ducks might be running out of gas as the season winds to its end. Just two weeks ago there was talks of Oregon making a run at a postseason tournament but this recent swoon means that the Ducks will have to win probably two games in the Pac-10 tournament to get a post-season invite. Regardless you have to love the heart that this team plays with, both games saw the Ducks put into early deficits but this team didn’t stop fighting and gave great effort to the end. This four game swoon does put a damper on the season but this shouldn’t take away from the fact that the Ducks have had a phenomenal campaign in Dana Altman’s first year. This team was supposed to struggle to get a win in conference this year but at seasons end they find themselves as a team that can compete with anybody in the Pac-10. Who knows maybe the Ducks find some magic in Las Angeles and make a run at the Pac-10 title, it wouldn’t be the first time that they shocked the league.
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