by DSH contributing writer Eric Sloat
On Wisconsin; with their 85-77 win over Oregon the Badgers advance to the Sweet 16; the Ducks leave the tournament with a bitter taste in their mouths. The first half was as good as they played all season. The shots were going in, from outside, from inside, and the Ducks went 17-18 from the free throw line. The defense was looking just as good. The Badgers were forced to play outside in, having to pass the ball around the perimeter.
When they did get it inside, the Ducks were communicating and making the right switches. No open backdoors. Oregon was running the game at its pace and the Badgers loaded crowd wasn’t having a lot of fun. At halftime, the sideline announcer asked Coach Altman what adjustments he’d be making for the second half? Altman replied that he didn’t think they should have to make very many, with the 12 point lead and no major foul trouble.
Sharp shooter: Johnathan Loyd pulls up for a jumper in the first half of Oregon's 85-77 loss in the 3rd round of the NCAA tournament Saturday. Loyd ends his career with the most games ever played by a Duck (Jeff Hanish, USA Today Sports images).
Unfortunately for Oregon; Wisconsin, facing the 12 point deficit changed things up a lot. A 7-2 run to start the second half made the score, 51-44 Oregon after only 2 minutes. But Oregon regained some stability and did not allow Wisconsin to take the lead, until a jumper with 13:26 to go gave the Badgers the lead, 59-58. Wisconsin, now getting the ball inside as well as connecting on 3’s pushed the lead out to 70-65.
But the Ducks would storm back once again, and with 1:55 left in the game had taken the lead back, 75-74. The next 50 seconds however would be the most decisive of the game. First Wisconsin missed a jump shot, offensive rebound. Badgers try a 3, miss, grab the rebound. Badgers try another 3, miss it, and get the OR. This is crazy, right? Wisconsin calls a 20 second timeout to sort things out. Ball back in play, Wisconsin misses a layup…and gets another offensive rebound. That’s 3 misses, 3 offensive rebounds, a timeout, then another miss and another rebound. If Oregon could have plucked one of those, at any time, who knows?
Unfortunately the Badgers got them all, and the last of them led to a made 3, and the lead, 77-75 they would never give back. Joe Young had a chance to tie it with 53 seconds to go, but the shot fell just short, and with it the season ended.
Midway through the conference season Oregon looked like it would be on the NIT bubble. But the team stayed together, started playing defense and won 9 of their last 11 games. They were undersized in practically all of them, but the hustle and grasp of defense paid off.
Jason Calliste added his name to the list of transfers Duck fans wish would have been able to stay longer; Mike Moser came back home for his final season and was a leader of the team, collecting consecutive conference player of the week honors during the Ducks late season run. Joe Young finished in the top 5 in scoring in the conference, and finished with 29 in the last game. Jon Loyd finishes his career at Oregon with the most games played by a Duck, his hustle and determination will long be remembered. Elgin Cook really came on as the season played out and will be a key to the team next season.
The recruiting class is looking great, and there is still time for it to get even better; with it, and the returning players from this season, Oregon will be one of the top teams in the conference next season.