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Eric Williams Jr. (50) takes a jumpshot. The Oregon Ducks defeated the Southern Methodist University Mustangs 86-63 at Matthew Knight Arena on November 12, 2021. (Will Geschke/Emerald)

Oregon came to the Maui Jim Invitational seeking key resume-building wins for March. Three days and two double-digit losses later and the Ducks’ play begs the question whether they’ll be in contention in a few months time.

More of the same for the men’s Oregon basketball team on Wednesday in Las Vegas. Heads hung, frustration starting to boil over.

Timid play, hesitant shot selection, gears turning in the player's heads and one more embarrassing loss.

The 78-49 blowout against the No. 12 Houston Cougars was the latest display of inexplicably poor shooting from a Ducks squad which resembles a collection of players more than a team through six games.

Another slow start and another first half scoring under 20 points. Another five-plus minute scoring drought. Shooting percentages — under 40% from the field, under 30% from three — indicative of two more hours of over-dribbling and selfish basketball.

The Ducks got down 13-3 in the first five minutes and it only got worse from there as Houston opened a 20, and later a 30-point lead.  

“We just got in our head and want to take it upon ourself because the ball movement is really bad and then after a while we just lose our energy defensively,” head coach Dana Altman said. 

The Cougars’ relentless defense threw double team after double team at the Ducks, often forcing poor decisions from shell-shocked Oregon players. The Ducks had 10 assists to 19 turnovers, which Houston scored 29 points off of.

Eric Williams Jr., now the Ducks’ leading scorer on the young season, was the only Duck to reach double-digits (13 points, 5-for-11). Will Richardson scored one basket and now has just 18 points combined over his last four. De’Vion Harmon left the game early with a possible concussion.

Oregon (3-3) has plummeted since its 2-0 start. The Ducks have dropped three of their last four by a combined 73 points. The sole win came against Chaminade, a Division II school.

That team, that talent displayed in the season’s opening games is still in there, but Dana Altman’s Ducks didn’t rediscover themselves in Las Vegas after their lopsided loss to BYU; they only sunk further into the bad habits and uninspired basketball showcased in Portland.

“How we’ve regressed so far in two weeks just shocks me,” Altman said. “It’s going to be a long road back. We buried ourself here the last two weeks. It’s going to take a tremendous effort for them to try to get back.”

Up 32 points with a few minutes to go, Houston’s J’Wan Roberts dove for a ball. As he slid out of bounds towards the bench, his teammates leaped with excitement, hoisting him up and patting him on the back.

Houston gave Oregon an example of what the Ducks aspire to be by season’s end. What many former Altman teams have coalesced into in the season’s final weeks.

“I still believe in our guys,” Altman said.

Oregon’s back at home on Monday, Nov. 29 against Montana and Wednesday Dec. 1 against UC Riverside. Both are slated for 9 p.m. PT.

Sports Desk Editor

Shane Hoffmann, originally from Michigan, is the Emerald's sports editor. He writes about the intersection of culture and sports, the climate, food and more. In his free time he enjoys playing sports, especially basketball, as well as cooking.