Men's BasketballSports

Loss to USC is a big hit on Oregon’s NCAA Tournament chances

Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard walked into the postgame media room with his jersey half on. He slowly put it back on to speak to the media, most likely after he took it off in frustration after the game.

“We let that one slip, but we keep letting them slip. .. We should not be in the place we’re in,” he said.

The disappointment after Oregon’s 75-70 loss to USC at home was apparent. Pritchard was frustrated, made clear by the serious tone of the usually laid-back sophomore.

The Ducks, now 12-7 overall and 2-4 in Pac-12 play, know it’s now or never if they want to turn around their season. The Ducks’ NCAA Tournament hopes were still alive before the loss to USC, but the loss is a big blow for a team fighting for a chance to play in late March.

Entering the game, the Ducks were on the outside of ESPN’s Bracketology. Now, with another home loss, they’ve got a steeper hill to climb.

“We just have to get hot, now,” Pritchard said. “It needs to be urgent. … We need to go on a roll here.”

Oregon has already tied the amount of conference losses from two years ago when they were the No. 1 seed, and they have doubled it from a season ago.

More surprisingly, Matthew Knight Arena was one of the most difficult places to play, but now the Ducks have three home losses, the most in one season since the opening of the arena in since 2011. UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State still have visits to Eugene.

Most notably, the Ducks have always finished above the preseason Pac-12 media poll in the Dana Altman era. The Ducks were picked to finish fourth, and right now they are eighth.

“I think we’re a better team,” head coach Dana Altman said. “I’m disappointed in myself because we’re not performing to the level that I think we should be performing at. For whatever reason, we haven’t been able to buy in to the things we think are really important. It’s frustrating for everybody.”

It’s not all doom and gloom for Oregon. They’ve played well enough in the last two losses — one at No. 14 Arizona — to lead in the final four minutes.

Rebounding killed the Ducks on Thursday night. USC outrebounded Oregon 10-1 in the final five minutes, and four of them were offensive rebounds that led to points for the Trojans.

The little things can be fixed, and Oregon still has time to make a run in conference play. If the Ducks can make a run in Pac-12 play, they’ve got a shot at making it to the NCAA Tournament. They’ll also need a strong showing in the Pac-12 Tournament.

But first, they need focus on one thing: “Right now we’re playing 36 minutes,” Pritchard said. “We need to play 40 minutes.”

Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917

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Jack Butler

Jack Butler

I am the sports editor for the Daily Emerald. I cover football and basketball. Email me at [email protected]