Oregon’s first test brings more questions than answers
PORTLAND, Ore. — My ears hurt.
It’s Thanksgiving, and the refs were in a charitable mood for Oregon 71-63 loss to UConn in the first round in the PK80 Invitational. Oregon and UConn combined for 53 fouls on Thursday. That’s 1.3 fouls per minute.
For an Oregon team trying to build chemistry and learn just what it is going to be this season, this game provided fewer answers than questions.
With the fouls, no rhythm was established in the game. The Ducks had to constantly rotate guys, so it was difficult to get a read on what lineups or rotations Oregon will use this season. The Ducks substituted 20 times in the first half, significantly more than UConn’s 12. The trend continued in the second half, forcing head coach Dana Altman to throw out any game plan they had.
“That’s not how I saw the game going,” he said. “We were in foul trouble right away, and, yeah, it wasn’t the combinations that I had looked for, and then guys tried doing too much.”
One questions this season was, who will take control offensively for the Ducks when they need it? After a year with guys like Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey, there are significant shoes to fill.
Freshman Troy Brown Jr. took the lead in the first four games, averaging 13 points per game, the most on the team. But he fell into foul trouble early, getting his second foul at 14 minutes, 34 seconds of the first half. He had to sit early, throwing off any type of rhythm. He eventually fouled out of the game in the second half, finishing with six points.
“Well, it really affected him,” Altman said. “It was obvious that he was out of it. That’s something that a freshman, you know, just got to adjust.”
Payton Pritchard was the only Duck who played over 30 minutes in the game was, and the Ducks had six other players over 19 minutes. It seemed like a clown car of guys off the bench trying to find the right combo.
The Ducks’ strength through the first four games was their perimeter shooting, but UConn pressured Oregon’s guards and the Ducks shot poorly. Oregon shot 33 percent from the field and 5-of-24 from 3-point range, far of its average of 41 percent this season.
“There’s no extra points for those long threes,” Altman said. “I’m not sure why we’re taking them.”
It was UConn’s defensive pressure that got to the Ducks.
“It was huge,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “We switched up defenses a lot. Kind of kept them off balance. … Our man-to-man defense, switching with our [guards] really affected them a little bit.”
Elijah Brown, who fouled out in the game, shot 2-of-8 from the field and 1-of-6 from 3. He was supposed to be a scorer, but he’s been inconsistent so far this season. Pritchard shot poorly as well, going 4-of-13 from the field and 2-of-9 from 3.
We had not seen the Ducks in a crunch-time situation yet, and when we finally did, Oregon struggled. Both Browns missed some of the final minutes because of fouled trouble. Nobody stepped up in their absence.
Oregon committed five turnovers in the final five minutes — part of its 17 on the night.
“Our first time under the lights, under pressure, and we sure didn’t handle it well,” Altman said.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917
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