Dana Altman’s Ducks Stop the Bleeding on SundayPosted by Kenny Ocker on January 27th, 2014
Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) is a national columnist for Rush The Court. He filed this story Sunday evening after the Oregon Ducks and Washington State Cougars played at Friel Court in Pullman, Washington.
Oregon was a desperate team. Forward Mike Moser said it; Dana Altman said it; both were unprompted. After three-plus weeks of bad shooting, nonexistent defense, or both – and being a last-second dunk away from a winless mark in conference – the team once ranked #10 in the nation was destined to be pressing. But the Ducks, thanks especially to an 8-of-10 shooting performance from reserve guard Jason Calliste, managed to get that monkey off their back, blowing out Washington State 71-44 on Sunday in Pullman.
“We desperately needed that. It was a little bit bigger than a monkey,” Altman said after the game. “I think it turned into a gorilla. I felt good for the guys; they were relieved in the locker room. It’s been a long three weeks.” The Ducks only trailed Washington State for a 21-second stretch early in the first half, a change Altman welcomed after his team has spent most of the conference season trying to chase teams down with little success. But Oregon (14-5, 2-5 Pac-12) only pulled away slowly at first, with Calliste’s perfect 6-of-6 shooting in the first half and 14 points eventually leading to a 13-point halftime lead. “Jason really did a tremendous job. He was the difference in the game,” Altman said of Calliste, who finished with 20 points. “That first half, going 6 for 6 he gave us an advantage and then we could play from the lead.” Though Calliste cooled off, the rest of the Ducks took off in the second half, led by all nine of Moser’s points. If it weren’t for a pair of garbage-time three-pointers from reserve Cougars forward Brett Boese, Oregon’s 41-point second-half barrage would have outscored Washington State (8-12, 1-7) for the game.
Going forward, there’s much for Altman and his team to take from this performance. Oregon had its best defensive showing of the season, holding Washington State to 0.71 points per possession. The Cougars had two points in the paint for the whole game (which Moser gleefully pointed out afterward). The Ducks had 14 offensive rebounds, compared to 17 defensive rebounds grabbed by the Cougars. Leading scorer Joseph Young had 10 points, his fourth time in double-figures in seven Pac-12 games after having 12 or more points in each non-conference game. The team had its second best Pac-12 shooting performance, in terms of effective field goal percentage. There’s also some caveats to the Ducks’ performance, along with some red flags, however. Washington State is missing star guard DaVonte Lacy, who is out with a rib injury; the junior has hit 60 percent of his two-pointers and 39 percent of his three-pointers this season. Oregon’s four primary frontcourt players – Moser, Ben Carter, Richard Amardi and Elgin Cook – combined to shoot 7-of-19 from the field. And although Young reached the 10-point plateau, it took him nine shots to get there.
Talking about his own team’s struggling conference season, Washington State coach Ken Bone said that losing to Oregon wasn’t like losing to the usual bottom-feeder team in the conference, and that he would evaluate his team’s 25 percent shooting performance as such. “Maybe their record was 1-5, but it’s not indicative of how good a team they are, just like a few years ago Colorado wasn’t really impressive, but come March they were really good,” Bone said. “I think Oregon’s one of those teams that potentially could be really good six weeks from now, seven weeks from now. They have a lot of talent. There’s a reason why they got to No. 10 in the country.”