Dual-threat Armstead takes reins for Ducks
Sophomore guard Malcolm Armstead raced up the court in Pullman, Wash., and eyed the clock. There were five seconds remaining in the second overtime period, and the score was tied at 89 against the Washington State Cougars.
As he dribbled up the right side of the court, he heard head coach Ernie Kent yell, “Go!” Armstead briefly glanced at the clock and started his move, crossing over a Cougar defender and scooping in a layup with just under a second left in the game. Armstead was fouled on the play and although he missed the free throw, his game-winning shot sparked a two-game sweep of the Washington schools that hasn’t been done since the beginning of the decade.
His 16 points and seven assists against WSU (followed by 21 points and six assists against Washington) have shown that the junior college transfer from Chipola Junior College in Florida is well on his way to becoming a leader for Oregon.
“He may make it look easy, but it’s a lot harder than you know and he’s done a terrific job so far,” Kent said of Armstead’s ability to be both a passer and a scorer. Kent said having both Armstead and senior guard Tajuan Porter on the court at the same time makes it difficult for teams, as was evident against Washington.
“The point guard position is the toughest position in college basketball,” Kent said. “What he has done is kind of stabilized it, and T.P. and Malcolm give us a great guard combination.”
Porter has also been appreciative of the skill Armstead has brought to the team this year. Last year, Armstead was a part of a 32-game winning streak at Chipola and shot 52 percent from behind the arc.
“It helps me a lot because he opens up the game for me, himself and our other teammates,” Porter said.
Armstead’s main weapon at Chipola was his passing game. He averaged 4.9 assists a game as a pass-first point guard. In high school he was a scorer, putting up over 30 points a game on most nights. And finally, here at Oregon, he has put the two together to become a dual-threat.
“It feels good,” Armstead said. “When I first got here I would pass more and coach told me, ‘I need you to score, there is so much more you can do for the team. When you are able to do both, the defense can’t just play you one way.’ It makes it easier for my teammates.”
But like all young players, there are tough times and wake-up calls. The Ducks were riding high after a six-game winning streak and being 2-0 in the Pac-10. On Sunday, they faced an Oregon State team that they hadn’t lost to in Eugene since 1993 and that had just lost a few days prior by 51 points.
The Beavers not only won the game, but their 1-3-1 trapping defense frustrated the Ducks into nine first half turnovers — four of which were Armstead’s. He finished with six turnovers for the game with nine points, four assists and shot 3-of-8 from the field.
“We got kind of rattled,” Porter said. “For Malcolm to be his first time in a Civil War battle and face that zone they play, it wasn’t like practice. They’re pretty good at their zone, and it kind of shocked him. He was being passive, he wasn’t attacking, he wasn’t being himself.”
Kent said it’s a lesson he hopes Armstead and the other newcomers take to heart about what it takes to play in a rivalry game.
“It’s a lesson in terms of the intensity of the Civil War for the new guys,” Kent said. “A lesson for this basketball team that you cannot get caught up in your success. The thing that we tried to guard against was what hit us.”
Armstead won’t have long to dwell on the subpar performance against the Beavers. Arizona State and Arizona both come to Eugene this week, with the Sun Devils first on Thursday. Kent said Armstead’s future is still bright, and these learning experiences will make him a better player.
“Malcolm brings in a great mentality, and he still has a lot of growth potential because he only knows about a half of what we do offensively,” Kent said.
“He’ll bounce back,” Porter said after the loss. “It’s just his first time. He’s got many Civil War games in his time. He’s going to do well next time.”
Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.