Ducks Blow Chance Losing 62-53

Eugene -- It was a big opportunity lost. Had the Oregon Ducks (15-10, 6-7) won, they would have been in third place in the Pac-10 race with momentum going into a very tough road trip to Los Angeles next week. But the Ducks dropped a 62-53 decision to the Washington State Cougars (20-5, 8-5) and now the task for the rest of the year is even tougher than it was.

(PHOTO) Aron Baynes hits a short hook shot to put Washington State up by 3 points late in their Pac-10 battle with the University of Oregon. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

"From where we were with an opportunity to gain some ground, this is a tough loss for us," said Oregon's Ernie Kent after the loss.

While the Ducks looked like world-beaters on Thursday night, but on Saturday the pace was slower and the Ducks could not get on track. Washington State's Derrick Low got off to a fast start in the first half by drilling two jumpers beyond the 3-point line and it was an uphill battle for the Ducks the rest of the way. The Cougars relied on a scorching 45 percent 3-point shooting touch and completely dominated the rebounds (31-20) especially by grabbing 11 loffensive boards. Meanwhile the Ducks had on two offensive boards for the night.

Aron Baynes was especially tough on Oregon as he and Robbie Cowgill kept the ball alive for WSU and in the final few minutes of the game, Baynes scored at will under the basket. Throw in 4-for-8 shooting of the 3-pointer by Taylor Rochestie and Low and it was lights out for Oregon.

"Their guards find ways to get the ball to him," said Oregon's Maarty Leunen, who battled Baynes all night. "In the first half we played well on him, but in the last few minutes he really made an impact."

Baynes finished the night with 12 points and five rebounds. Cowgill recorded nine rebounds, five of those offensive. Rochestie was the game's leading scorer with 21 points while Low added a total of 16.

Leunen's 20 points paced Oregon, but a good reflection of how the game went, he only had six rebounds. No other Duck managed to get into double figure scoring. This was particularly aggravating especially to Malik Hairston who was held to just six points and six rebounds.

"I don't think we ran the offense that well tonight," admitted Hairston. "We were able to get some shots off and get the ball to Maarty (Leunen) but we had a lot of turnovers. We didn't share the ball the way we should have."

Kent felt that WSU slowed the pace of the game to their liking and made it particularly tough on defense for the Ducks as the sagged in the middle, forcing Oregon to take shots the Ducks would rather not have. The pace of the game allowed fewer possessions and the Ducks didn't help themselves with 12 turnovers.

"They controlled the tempo with their offense," said Kent of WSU. "They make you accountable, possession by possession. You just don't have enough possessions to make many mistakes."

For the game Oregon shot 48.7 percent on 19-of-39 shooting including 4-of-17 in 3-point attempts. WSU shot 40 percent on 20-of-50.

Next week the Ducks must find a way to rebound from this missed opportunity as they travel to Los Angeles for games with UCLA and USC.

"This next weekend becomes huge again," observed Kent. It's not over, you just have to grind it through. The window was open for us and we just didn't climb through."

The Ducks now are in seventh place in the Pac-10 race and it is apparent they will need to win the rest of their games this season, plus the Pac-10 Tournament for any hopes of going on in the NCAA playoffs. If Oregon can find the magic they had on Thursday night and play like the team that finished the 2006-07 season then there is hope. In order to do that though, the defensive pressure has to reemerge as well as some timely shooting.

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