by DSH contributor Eric Sloat
And so it is, 3 games in to the conference season, the Oregon Ducks are in a must win situation when they take on the Stanford Cardinal Sunday in Matthew Knight Arena. Win that one, their record sits even at 2-2 in conference play, and they can take a breath and set themselves up for the game against Oregon State in Corvallis next week. Lose to Stanford, and they are a miracle ending away from a 0-4 start, and facing the next 3 games on the road.
It’s not a mystery why the Ducks are struggling. They have no plan. Last night against Cal, the Bears put on a clinic. On offense they were executing play after play, setting screens, working the ball around until an unguarded shot opened up. On defense they were employing various formations that the Ducks had no answer for.
Bear's big man Richard Solomon gets inside position as the Ducks get paddled 96-83 at Matt Knight (Scott Olomos, USA Today Sports Images).
Conversely, the Ducks on offense were a scattered and disorganized mess. Possession after possession they came down the court with no plan on what they were going to do. One player would dribble for a while, and then throw the ball to another stationary player, who would either shoot it or pass it away. There was no cutting or setting of screens. The Ducks have had problems with lay-ups all season; those problems were still present last night. Part of the reason is just Oregon having trouble finishing. But an even bigger reason is their shots were always contested. The passes were thrown into a mass of arms, and if a shot could go up, it was almost always an awkward attempt. On defense, again, the Ducks had no idea of what to do. There was no communication, no switching. This was evidenced on a play near the end of the game when John Loyd, all 5’8 of him ended up guarding 6’10 Richard Solomon.
The Ducks had their chances. and found themselves trailing by only 4 at the break. A hot start to the second gave them the lead. The foul situation had tipped. With 11 minutes to go, the Bears had players in foul trouble, and had already accumulated 10 team fouls, which would have the Ducks shooting 2 free throws every time. But, alas the Ducks didn’t capitalize on this. With 5 minutes to go, the Ducks pulled to within 3 at 75-72. But that would be it as the Bears would increase the lead
There is talent on this Ducks team. The record that saw them be put in the Top 10 was not solely built by trampling awful teams. But, as the talent level of the opponents has increased the Ducks have regressed in all facets of the game. They need to communicate better, and play with a determined mindset at the start of games and carry it all the way to the end.