EUGENE, Ore.- If you were worried about how Oregon would respond to Thursday’s buzzer-beating loss, the Ducks proved Saturday that your worries were unwarranted. Oregon (22-6, 11-4) beat the Cardinal going away 77-66, so much so that it would’ve been their biggest margin of Pac-12 play if not for a Stanford rally.
Comparing Thursday and Saturday’s offensive statistics, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more definitive response than the Ducks’ Saturday.
On Thursday, Oregon scored a season-low 46 points, versus Stanford they matched that total at the 13:50 mark of the second half. The Ducks nearly doubled Thursday’s 27.6 percent field goal percentage, making 48.4 percent of their baskets.
And the Ducks improvements were also found on an individual level. After missing all five shots versus the Bears, Johnathan Loyd had his best offensive game of the season, scoring a season-best 15 points, while doling out nine assists, also the most this year.
“It felt great. I needed it,” Loyd said. “My teammates have put faith in me. They’ve been telling me that they believe in me, that they trust me. They knew I could do it. So, I just stepped up.”
With defenses baiting him to shoot, Loyd drained two early jumpers, both to pull Oregon ahead of the Cardinal, the second a three which gave Oregon a 26-24 lead that they never relinquished.
“I was talking to coach Altman, and I was making sure that the first shot that I took was one that I really wanted to take and that it was a good one…I feel like that helped me a lot.
Following the California loss, Loyd was so down that Altman felt obligated to call him and check in, ensuring that he was OK.
“The other night after the game we talked, I called him, because I was worried about him. I was down, he was down, everybody was down. He bounced back tough, because that’s the kind of guy he is.
“I just told him he’s got to keep his head up. As low as I was, I knew he was feeling low. I wanted to talk to him…Nothing important, I just told him ‘Hey, it is what it is, you’ve got to keep your head up…,’” Altman explained.
Also exerting himself in a surprising way was center Tony Woods, who grabbed a career-high nine boards, six on the offensive glass.
“Before the game coach approached me and gave me a goal to get three offensive boards. I was going into the game thinking more about rebounding it,” he said.
Perhaps the only aspect that wasn’t greatly improved was their 3-point shooting, but perhaps that was by design. After putting up 15 attempts versus the Golden Bears, making just two, Oregon attempted only seven, making two.
“It’s always been a point of emphasis [taking good three-point attempts], it’s just we don’t communicate very well, we don’t listen at times. We shouldn’t take a lot of threes, our numbers just don’t dictate that we should,” Altman said.
Of Oregon's 14 conference games to date, the game margin has strayed outside of 10 points just twice, once in a win at Oregon State and the other a 24-point loss at Stanford. And Oregon wasn’t about to forget the Cardinal’s dominant victory in Palo Alto.
“Any time you get blown out by 25, there’s always going to be payback. I think that was in the back of everybody’s mind,” Loyd.
The win was also Altman’s 600th of his coaching career, including non-Division 1 schools. Knowing his personality, it’s no surprise that Loyd, and likely the rest of his teammates, were unaware of the accomplishment.
“I’m happy for him. I had no clue. He doesn’t really talk about that type of stuff. Now that he got it, I’m happy for him. He deserves it. He works hard and I’m happy for coach,” the point guard said.
When asked about the milestone’s significance, Altman was quick to give credit to those who’ve helped him reach it.
“I’ve had a lot of good players. I guess that’s what it makes you think about is all the good players you’ve had. I’ve been doing this for 33 years, five as an assistant and 28 as a head coach.
“It’s not that big of a deal, but I’m getting old,” he said.
But most importantly, the win saved the Ducks a spot atop the conference, improving them to 11-4, matched by Arizona, who beat Washington State in Tucson.
“We’re a little disappointed because we feel we should be better, and I want our guys to think that way…We’ve let a few slip. They know it. I know it and our fans know it. So there’s that little disappointment there, but you’ve got to look ahead, you can’t change that. All you can change is what’s in front of you,” Altman said.
That effort would be aided by the return of Dominic Artis, who missed his ninth game Saturday. Despite that, Altman was quite optimistic about his freshman point guard’s status.
“It’ll be five weeks Wednesday. I think we’ve given him plenty of time. I think he’s pretty close,” Altman said. Altman added that he’d need doctors OK and that they didn’t wish to rush him back.
“I’m sure that there will be a little bit of adjustment time, but hopefully we get him in for the Oregon State game. Then he’s got two games and another week for the conference tournament. He’ll get time, three weeks to get blended in.”