Oregon men’s basketball: Ducks hope to secure NCAA tournament berth against No. 3 Arizona
Where: Matthew Knight Arena
When: 1 p.m. PST
The Oregon men’s basketball team (21-8, 9-8) is currently riding a six-game winning streak and will conclude their regular season against No. 3 ranked Arizona (28-2, 15-2) at home on senior night this Saturday. Oregon currently holds a No. 32 ranking in the RPI rankings and is in a four-way tie with California, Stanford and Utah for fifth place in the Pac-12.
“Just want to play every area better and like it’s our last game,” Joseph Young said. “It’s our last game of the season and we’re going to come out here like we’ve lost five in a row.”
In order for the Ducks to solidify a bye in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament, they have to beat Arizona, Oregon State must beat Arizona State, Colorado must beat California and Utah must beat Stanford. As of now, the Ducks are still considered to be a bubble team in regards to the NCAA tournament.
“I think they’re playing really good,” head coach Dana Altman said. “Sean (Miller) has done a really good job and they have represented the league as well as any team could. They’ve been in the top five all year, they’ve won big games, they’ve handled everything so good, they’ve just been a great representative for our league and it’s put our league in the national spotlight again. Hopefully all of us at the end of the season can do something special to help the league.”
In their last meeting, the Wildcats escaped with a 67-65 victory at home. Though Aaron Gordon was held to just six points on 2-11 shooting, Nick Johnson (18 points) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (14 points) helped edge out the Ducks. Similar to last game, Arizona will be without Brandon Ashley, who suffered a season-ending injury earlier this year.
“You have two different periods when you lose somebody,” Altman said. “Maybe the first two games you have everybody gathered together and somebody steps up big time because they get their opportunity. And then you have that period when you miss that guy because the adrenaline rush is worn off. I think they have made their adjustments. Brandon (Ashley) is a tough guy to lose.”
Both teams will approach this game in the same manner. With the game being so close the first time around, Oregon is looking to focus on the small details of the game instead of switching up its scheme. For Oregon, this will include rebounding and turnovers, despite edging out the Wildcats 40-35 on the boards last game. @@http://www.goducks.com/pdf9/2634596.pdf@@
“No big adjustment,” Young said in regards to their approach. “Just come in with intensity and play a 40-minute game.”
Waverly Austin will also be vital for Oregon in the paint. Austin, who recorded five points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, has been logging more minutes as of late and will be the preferable matchup for Arizona big man Kaleb Tarczewski. Tarczewski, who is averaging 10.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and one block, finished with 12 points and seven rebounds in their initial matchup. @@http://pac-12.com/content/mens-basketball-statistics@@
“I hope he (Austin) can contribute,” Altman said. “Don’t want to put too much pressure on him, but I hope he’ll contribute. He had a fantastic game against Arizona State and we’re hoping Tarczweski with his size gives Waverly a good matchup, so we’re hoping Waverly can get us something again.”
During their winning streak, the Ducks have averaged 81.3 points, have shot 54.9 percent from the field and have won by an average margin of 9.5 points. They will be going up against an Arizona team who is riding a five-game winning streak.
With a top ranking in the Pac-12 conference and just two losses this season, Arizona will be in this year’s tournament. Oregon, on the other hand, will be looking to send their seniors off with one last regular season win. Graduating this year from Oregon are Richard Amardi, Austin, Jason Calliste, Nick Lucenti and Mike Moser.
“It’s a big group of guys and a good group of guys,” Altman said about the senior class. “They’ll be really missed and the last home game is always tough.”
Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim