The final play of the game on Wednesday night seemed to sum up the way things have been going for the Huskies in their last two games. The Huskies found themselves down two with five seconds left, needing to either force a turnover or foul to stop the clock and extend the game. With the Ducks in-bounding in front of Lorenzo Romar, the Huskies applied great pressure and forced Oregon to throw a very tough pass down the sideline. Freshman forward Donaven Dorsey seemed for a moment to get a hand on the pass, and seemed as if he was going to the Huskies a second chance at tying the game after their disappointing turnover just seconds before. It was not to be however, as Dorsey's momentum carried him out of bounds and he was forced to desperately throw the ball back into play, which was quickly snatched up by Oregon guard Jalil Abdul Bassit. Bassit went on to sink two free-throws and secure the victory for his team, 78-74.
This game was right there for the taking for the Huskies, which makes the loss all the more hard to swallow. The Huskies held an early 19-12 lead over the Ducks in the first half. That lead was quickly erased with a quick 7-0 Duck run, and UW eventually found themselves down five going into the break. Despite the deficit, the Husky offense looked like a well-oiled machine for much of the first half. This machine was powered by a seemingly relentless assault on the painted area, as the Huskies looked determine to challenge the frontline. This strategy seemed to pay off as the Huskies scored 26 of their 37 first half points in the paint.
Romar trottedout a few all guard lineups Wednesday, and though he did not stick with any of these lineup for an extended period of time, the ball and player movement was noticeably better during these stretches. The all guard lineup allowed the Huskies to stretch the floor, and attack the rim more affectively. This lineup seemed to run a bit of a dribble handoff/weave type offense during their time on the floor. Though the ball was moved predominantly with the dribble as opposed to the pass, the dribble hand-off offense allowed for the ball to be in constant motion and reduced the stagnation that typically bogs down the offense.
The Huskies also did a remarkable job of limiting freshman forward Jordan Bell's ability to affect the game, specifically on the defense end. Bell did not record a single block, as the Husky guards did a very good job of driving right into his body and using an array of pump fakes in order to throw of Bell's rhythm and also eliminate his extreme height and length advantage.
This Husky team may be one of the oddest small ball lineups that I have ever seen take the floor. The idea of small ball is to play a perimeter orientated player at the power foward position, which is generally reserved for an athletic or physical (or both) big man. The idea is to put pressure on the opposing team's defense by forcing them to either play a traditional power forward on one of the smaller perimter players, putting him in a tough and usually uncomfortable position on defense,or to force them play small as well. With the injury to Jernard Jarreau and the dismissal of Robert Upshaw the Huskies have more or less been forced into embracing this style of play. Donaven Dorsey has been inserted into the starting lineup and has filled the roll of "stretch four" decently (on the offensive end) for the Huskies. He knocked down three of his six three point attempts tonight. However, after Dorsey - and Mike Anderson the Huskies leader in three point percentage at 41.1% - is where the idea that this Husky team stretches the floor with their shooting ends. They shot an abysmal 18.8% from the three point line tonight, Dorsey's aforementioned three point makes were the only threes that fell for the Huskies tonight. That is precisely what makes this Husky team so odd, and to me, so intriguing. They produce a lineup that features four guards that simply cannot make shots from behind the arc, yet teams still play man to man against them for stretches of the game and respect them as though they can knock down outside shots, as one would think a small ball team would be able to do. Yet, despite this inability to shoot, the Huskies still find ways to penetrate and score, as they did Wednesday. Though, to be fair, they did struggle in the second half as the Ducks adjusted by doing a better job walling off the paint. Still, the Huskies managed to score 40 second half points despite the fact that only six of those points came from behind the arc. Say what you will about their inability to shoot, but I find that stat to be pretty impressive.
Nigel Williams Goss, Andrew Andrews and Shawn Kemp Jr. all deserve praise for their performances on Wednesday. Goss scored 19 points on a sizzling 69% (9-13) from the field. He also dished out six assists and added two rebounds. He was able to get into the lane effectively all night by craftily using ball screens and hesitation dribbles to free himself of his defender..
Andrews also deserves a lot of credit for his performance tonight, He added a very effecient 14 points as he only missed two of his eight shot attempts. His tough shot making ability was on display Wednesday as he knocked down a couple of tough contested floaters, and also threw in a jump shot while he was trying to draw a foul. Andrews impact on the game was most felt on the defensive end however, as he tallied a game high five steals.
Kemp Jr. turned in a solid performance Wednesday, as he tallied 12 points and four rebounds. He ran the floor and finished at the rim well, and also did a good job of playing smart on the defensive end after picking up two first half fouls.
Oregon came away with the victory tonight because of three factors: Three point shooting, free throw shooting, and most importantly Joseph Young.
The Ducks outclassed the Huskies from behind the arc, knocking down 42.5% of their three point attempts. Oregon has been an impressive three point shooting team all season, and after a slow start from behind the arc to start the game, they did not disappoint. It has to be a bit demoralizing for the Huskies when they work hard for their points, just to see the Ducks race down and quickly answer with a three.
Senior guard Joseph Young was simply sensational Wednesday. He poured in 32 points for the Ducks, knocking down four of his nine three point attempts and shooting 57% from the field (12-21). The Huskies seemed to have no way of slowing Young down, as he knocked down threes, mid range jump shots, floaters, and layups. He also added Young's 32 points gave him 2,000 points for his career. It is safe to say that the Huskies, and the rest of the Pac-12 for that matter, will look forward to seeing him move on after the season.
The Ducks also won the free-throw battle tonight, which I think is almost as important as Young's 32 points were (Well, almost as important). The Huskies shot 68.8% from the foul line tonight (11-16). which isn't great by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn't neccessarily horrible either. However, when compared to the Ducks, who went a perfect 10-10 from the charity stripe,it becomes rather glaring.
With the loss, the Huskies find themselves at 3-7, and a lowly eleventh in the conference standings. If someone were to tell me that, at the beginning of February the Huskies would be second to last in the conference, I would have been very disappointed. If that same person were to add that they would win their first 11 games out of the gate and in said position, I would say that they are just being mean. Alas, that is where this team finds itself right now, 3-7 and desperately trying to notch another conference victory. When I watch this team play, there are some laring deficiencies on display. However, lack of effort is certainly not one of them, this team desperately wants to win, and competed that way on Wednesday night.
For their sake, I hope that next win comes sooner rather than later.