Despite another loss to their highly touted 2011 recruiting class, the Ducks scratched out their fourth consecutive victory Tuesday night, defeating the UTEP Miners 64-59 to move to 4-1 overall on the season. Though they were spearheaded by sophomore guard Johnathan Loyd's career-high 24 point effort, the Ducks struggled to find any semblance of continuity against the Miners, committing 15 turnovers (10 of which came in the first half) and looking generally out of rhythm, particularly in offensive sets.
"We seemed a step slow on everything tonight," admitted Oregon head coach Dana Altman. "Our bounce wasn't good and turnovers in the first half really kept us from making any kind of move. (There were times) when we had the ball in transition and we didn't finish.
"We were fortunate to win the game."
Thus far this season, veterans such as E.J. Singler and Garrett Sim have been steadying forces in the Oregon lineup, however both players struggled to get on track versus UTEP as they combined for 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field. Luckily for Altman and the Ducks, Loyd delivered his finest performance of his young collegiate career, notching career-highs in points (24), field goals made (8) and 3-pointers made (6).
"From warmups, my shot was feeling good," said Loyd, who was the fourth Duck to lead the team in scoring this season. "I told Nic Lucenti that it was going to be a good day and it worked out."
Without the benefit of depth at point guard for the foreseeable future due to true freshman Bruce Barron's abrupt departure from the team, Loyd logged 31 minutes on the court tonight, though he never seemed to tire despite shouldering an additional load.
"That wasn't in my thinking at all," said Loyd of having more responsibility. "I love basketball, so getting more minutes just means more fun. That's all it was. I wasn't thinking that I had to play more or that more was going to be on my shoulders. Never crossed my mind."
As far as Barron's absence is concerned, Altman offered few details, though he said that the team is "past the point" of potential return for either him or highly touted freshman, Jabari Brown.
"Bruce has left the team and we'll move forward with the 13 players on the team," stated Altman. "I want guys who want to be here and I think everyone else is pretty solid. We're going to move forward."
Before Barron left the team, Altman acknowledged that he was aware that the Carbondale, Illinois native was upset with the progress he had made since arriving in Eugene.
"He had been hurt," Altman said. "He had hurt his knee and he had a concussion and he's missed a lot of practices. It's hard to play a lot when you haven't practiced much...He was quite a ways behind the rest of the guys in terms of practice."
Outside of Loyd, Oregon senior forward Olu Ashaolu was the only other Duck in double figure scoring Tuesday night, chipping in a season-high 13 points and four electrifying fastbreak flushes that provided the most memorable highlights from the night's game.
The Ducks return to action Saturday afternoon against BYU. Tip-off from EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah is set for 2:00 p.m. Pacific. Live telecast of the game can be seen on ESPNU.
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
Ducks, Loyd Inch Past UTEP
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