The Arizona Wildcats will rematch the Oregon Ducks on Saturday, looking for their fourth straight win.
The Ducks won the first matchup in Tucson and we wanted to get some insight on them before the teams take the court in Eugene, so here is our Q&A with Addicted to Quack’s Colt Johnson.
Oregon was able to snap a three-game losing streak against ASU. What was clicking in that game and why were the Ducks struggling before?
Oregon did an incredible job of limiting the three-point ball all game, keeping the Sun Devils to only 3-24 from deep. They also did a fantastic job rebounding the ball, out rebounding ASU 44-26. This was one of the most well-rounded games Oregon has played. They defended well, rebounded at an extremely high level (which isn’t necessarily common for this group) and they shot the ball effectively, shooting 49 percent.
Where the Ducks have struggled has been in their consistency. They struggle on the road (3-7) and have a hard time getting into an offensive flow when they’re away from Matthew Knight Arena, or facing a strong team. They get lost at points offensively and tend to put up forced shots as the shot clock dwindles down. If they aren’t able to create transition opportunities and get off the break, scoring can be laborious and that’s when they find themselves in trouble and on the wrong side of a run.
How has Oregon changed since the first time Arizona played them?
They’re continuing to find their identity as a team. When Oregon and Arizona first met, Bol Bol’s injury was less than a month fresh and Louis King was coming off an injury, working his way back to being in full basketball condition. Fast forward past their latest win against ASU, King is the Ducks’ leading scorer and Oregon has a top-50 ranked defense.
With the loss of Bol, Dana Altman had to make a conscious decision to emphasize and stress the importance of defense to his team. He knew the offensive production was going to drop with the loss of their leading scorer and in came the use of the press defense soon after. This team is much more defensive-oriented than they were previously in the season and are finding their identity in that, while continuing to mature with each game.
At 7-8 in the Pac-12, is it safe to say this has been a disappointing season for the Ducks?
It has definitely been disappointing, but not necessarily in the most conventional of ways. After bringing in the the top recruiting class in the Pac-12 and the third-rated class in college basketball with signings like Bol Bol, Louis King, Will Richardson and Francis Okoro (several of which who are five-star recruits), expectations were extremely high to begin with.
Before Bol’s injury, Oregon was easily looking like a tournament team and one that would possibly take the Pac-12 title as well. But as soon as word came out that Bol would be out indefinitely, that’s when things took a downward turn. The injury itself was disappointing because most fans realize the importance of having a player like Bol in the starting lineup. As the season has gone on, the most disappointing thing to see has been the inconsistency as shown by the 7-8 record in the Pac. The moment it seems like they’re starting to figure things out and turn the corner, they look like they’ve never seen a basketball the next game.
The game against UCLA on Feb. 23 is a perfect example of how inconsistent Oregon’s offense has been, blowing a 19 point lead in the second half. The young guys, and this is a very young roster, haven’t been able to pick up the intricacies of Altman’s system and their struggles have been evident this year.
Oregon’s defense is ranked 40th in the country. What makes it so effective?
Welcome to the “Press Coast.” A major component to Oregon’s success defensively is Altman’s use of the press in key situations. He’s a great defensive-minded coach and his system is tailored for long, athletic guys and the Ducks have that in spades.
Guys like Kenny Wooten Jr. (1.8 BPG) make it very hard to get good, clean looks around the basket and others like Payton Pritchard (1.6 SPG) and grad-transfer Ehab Amin (1.6 SPG) also have been key contributors to Oregon’s success on defense and in transition. When their defense is able to get turnovers and get the fast-break going they’re able to capitalize with their length and athleticism and that’s when they see sustainable success offensively as well.
At the same time, this is the worst offensive team Dana Altman has had at Oregon. Why?
Youth. This is arguably one of the youngest teams Altman has ever coached at Oregon. Past teams of Altman’s that have had major success including his Final Four team in 16-17 were older and more mature, generally made up of upperclassmen rather than primarily underclassmen. Though these were highly touted freshman coming into the season, there is still a lot of growing room and maturing to do. Altman’s system is complex and he demands a lot out of his players so picking it up and feeling comfortable in it takes time and understanding.
What are the keys to the game for Oregon against Arizona?
Creating turnovers is going to be big in this game. This will be a limited possession game and if Oregon can capitalize on turnovers and not make similar mistakes on the offensive side, the extra possessions will be vital. Another key will be how the Ducks decide to come out to start the game. If it’s anything like the way they came out against UCLA (even though they lost) or ASU, they should be in good position to win in Eugene where they tend to play much better offensively.
I think we’re gonna see a little bit more scoring in Eugene than we did in Tucson, but it will still be more of a half-court possession game. Final score, Ducks win 68-64 taking the season series.
What should Arizona fans do in Eugene?
Check out the Whiteaker! Not as well known area that has some great bars and restaurants, real Grateful Dead vibe. But if you want the college experience, look no further than Rennie’s.