Oregon fails first conference test, falls to ASU in overtime 69-67
Dana Altman's teams usually kick into gear later in the year. But with multiple blowouts and now a Pac-12-opening loss to Arizona State, is it time to worry about the Ducks?
EUGENE — Dana Altman’s Oregon Ducks continue to swing the way of their point guard Will Richardson.
On Sunday in Matthew Knight Arena, it ended in his hands — a double-clutch pull-up jumper at the free throw line. His 12th missed shot of the game extinguished Oregon’s hopes as the clock expired. The Ducks (5-4, 0-1 Pac-12) tried, and failed, to pass their first conference test of the year, falling 69-67 to Arizona State in overtime.
“We thought [Richardson] could get a good look,” Altman said. “He had a tough game, but we thought in a pressure situation he could get a good look, and he got a good look.”
In the absence of its leading scorer and rebounder Eric Williams Jr., Oregon shot 41.7% from the field, hit 4-of-22 shots from deep and couldn’t put away the Sun Devils (3-6, 1-1) despite holding leads in the last two minutes of both regulation and overtime.
ASU’s DJ Horne exploded for a game-high 23 points by way of a series of tough pull-up jumpers — none more crucial than his game-tying 3-pointer with five seconds to go in overtime. Jay Heath added 14 points and four 3s, including the eventual game-winner.
“I was really disappointed in the way that those two guys got their looks,” Altman said. “We knew they were the only two guys that were capable of beating us from three… I thought we gave those guys way too many looks.”
Richardson scored 8 points, dished out seven assists and collected seven rebounds while De’Vion Harmon scored 11 points. The duo combined to shoot 5-for-26.
In Oregon’s five wins, Richardson has averaged 14.6 points per game. In losses, a mere 6.5.
Lacking production from their lead guards, the Ducks turned to Rivaldo Soares and Franck Kepnang. Soares scored a season-high 11 and Kepnang poured in a career-high and team-high 17 points, six of which came in overtime.
“[Soares] gave us some great minutes…,” Altman said. “He got it out in transition, got a couple easy ones for us that we really needed.”
Oregon missed it’s first five 3-pointers of the game as ASU built a 16-6 lead with 12:28 to go in the first half. As Horne continued to hit jumpers off the dribble for ASU, the Ducks struck back with a pair of 3s from Richardson and Quincy Guerrier, followed by a Guerrier and-1 under the rim. Capped off by De’Vion Harmon’s 3-pointer at the top of the key, the Ducks used a 8-0 run over the next four minutes to take a 22-21 lead and went into the break up 31-30.
Neither team secured a lead greater than four for the entirety of the second half and overtime. ASU continued its success by way of the jump shot while Oregon worked down low. The Ducks outscored the Sun Devils 42-22 in the paint.
A pair of Kepnang free throws gave Oregon a 60-57 lead with eight seconds left before Horne’s ensuing 3-pointer sent the game to overtime.
The Ducks missed all four of their 3s and after falling behind 64-60 to start the extra period, built a slim 67-66 lead before they were undone by Heath’s fourth 3-pointer of the game.
Injuries: Williams Jr. and wing Lok Wur were both out Sunday. Post game, Altman diagnosed Wur’s injury as an ankle and Williams Jr.'s as a lower leg which he recently aggravated. Wur appeared in a walking boot.
“I don’t know how long either one will be out,” Altman said.
While Wur has played sparsely this year, Williams Jr. has been integral. He’s been the team’s most consistent shooter, leads the team in points, rebounds and steals per game and has flashed potential to guard multiple positions.
Battle of the bigs:
The Ducks’ depth down low has shown to be an early strength through nine games. Kepnang has had his moments both as a starter and off the bench and N’Faly Dante has played some of his best basketball in past weeks.
On Sunday, the hierarchy of the center position was shaken up once more. Dante played just 15 minutes, 11 of which came in the first half. Kepnang was 7-for-9 from the field in 29 minutes.
“Franck did give us some good things offensively,” Altman said. “Defensively, he made some mistakes. I didn’t think Dante’s energy was very good I thought Franck gave us a lot more energy.”
Oregon will turn it around… right?
It’s no secret Altman’s teams always get hot late. This year’s team may, too. But this unit has a different feel to teams of years past. They’ve suffered some of the biggest blowouts in Altman’s 11-year Oregon career. Despite harboring plenty of talent, young and old, they seem disconnected.
Some of Altman’s comments have been disconcerting, too.
The Ducks left Las Vegas without a marquee early season win. No. 4 Baylor comes to Eugene in two weeks time with games at Stanford and at home vs. Portland preceding. No. 5 UCLA and No. 11 Arizona provide shots at blue-chip, resume-building wins, but the Ducks’ recent performances have yet to instill hope that Oregon can jockey with the conference’s top squads.
— Shane Hoffmann
Shane Hoffmann is a senior journalism student at the University of Oregon who will be contributing to The I-5 Corridor throughout the year. Follow him on Twitter at @shane_hoffmann