And 1: Oregon 78, Stanford 67

Kevin Danna brings his insights and observations from Stanford's loss at the Oregon Ducks, 78-67, at Eugene on Thursday evening.

Tonight, I tried to accomplish the highly unlikely.

Broadcasting the women's basketball game at Maples, I attempted to go the whole night without knowing the score of the men's game. With the Eugene contest starting an hour beforehand, this was going to be a stretch.

Mission impossible. Tom Cruise need not apply.

The board show flashed up "Oregon 41, Stanford 40, Second Half" midway through the first half of the women's game, and being eye-level with the scoreboard, I had no choice but to look. Then I saw "Stanford 50, Oregon 49, 10:30 Second Half." Then "Oregon 66, Stanford 58, 3:48 Second Half."

I made it out of Maples still unaware of the final result, but that last score check was certainly a bad omen. When my friend texted me something to the extent of "Stanford lost," the guesswork was taken away. Stanford did indeed lose to the Ducks, 78-67, and I was left having to watch the game already knowing the outcome.

Poor me.

As I started watching the game back on my DVR, I wondered exactly how in the hell Oregon was going to pull this one off. The Card quickly got out to a 7-2 lead thanks to smothering defense and a heavy dose of Josh Owens that only got heavier as the first frame wore on.  Outside of a couple of Chasson turnovers (not his best night tonight, but he was always aggressive and looking to make plays - I respected his performance), this game got off to a great start.

But then a former Tubbynesian started to get going. First a wide-open mid-range jumper. Then a clean-up lay-in in transition. Next a three. Another layup ensued. By the time Stanford had scored their next seven, Oregon had dropped in 12 to tie it up at 14, nine of which had come by way of one Devoe Joseph.

Still, the offense was looking much more fluid than it did against USC. Aaron Bright was making much better decisions with the basketball; he didn't pick it up after driving to the elbow and drawing two defenders unless it was to pass to an open man. Five assists, zero turnovers on the night. A job well done.

More importantly, he was finding a way to consistently get the ball down to Josh Owens, who was having a monster of a first half. I love Tony Woods, but Josh turned was too quick whenever he had some room to work with. When the Kennesaw Kid caught it at the right elbow on one possession, he blew right by the Wake Forest transfer for an all-too-easy layup. As impressive as his 31 was last year against the Ducks, it looked as if Josh might be able to surpass his career high.

That turned out to be far from the case, as Altman, Inc. did a much better job of clamping down on Owens in the second half. Whether it was by fronting Josh, collapsing the defense to cut off the post-entry passing lanes or by straight up doubling him, Oregon refused to let Owens get the ball. When he did, he would get it in spots where he wasn't comfortable and where Tony Woods was in a better position to use his size to agitate Josh's attempts. E.J. Singler and Jeremy Jacob also did a bang-up job defensively when they had their licks at Stanford's prominent post player.

Josh does his damage down low when he gets it on the first look of the possession. If that first pass isn't there, usually the Stanford perimeters will not look to Josh again. If it does go back to Owens after the first look isn't ideal, then he usually doesn't have much time to work with or is further away from the hoop and has to make a dollar out of 15 cents. When this game got away at the end, the "littles" stopped looking to Josh altogether and decided to hoist up a boatload of threes, which turned out to not help the Cardinal cause.

However, that wasn't until the final minutes. It was still very much in the balance for the majority of the second half. Stanford even went up 50-49 after a John Gage three (career night for the sophomore, by the way. I love how he never hesitates to not pass up an open shot and just let it fly).

The sequence that killed the Card immediately followed Stanford's short-lived second half lead, thanks again to ex-Tubbymania. After Stanford missed out on an opportunity to extend their lead, Devoe Joseph pulled up in transition to knock down a long bomb that would put the Ducks back on top. Next possession, Devoe pushed the tempo again and drove all the way to the hoop. He didn't knock it down, but an offensive rebound kept the possession alive, and Joseph ended up hitting another trey. Soon enough, it was 55-50 Quacks, and the Thunder Green and Lightning Yellow never looked back.

That last three sums up the two things that absolutely murdered Stanford tonight: Devoe Joseph and offensive rebounds. Joseph had a career-high 30, making him the third guard in four games to score considerably more than their average against Stanford (Butler's Nored, UCLA's Jones being the others). But honestly, he wasn't all that impressive; all Joseph had to do most of the time was knock down uncontested threes. He got so many good looks tonight that it would have been hard for him to shoot worse than 5-7 from beyond the arc and 9-15 overall. I'm not trying to take anything away from his performance and I will give Joseph credit for being able to separate himself from his man by running him through screens (which happened to Jarrett in the first half on one trip that comes to mind), but a lot of times, he didn't have to work nearly as hard as Lazeric Jones did for his 26 against Stanford the previous Thursday.

The offensive rebounds I didn't see coming. This was one category where the Cardinal had been so solid just about all season with the exception of the Butler game. But tonight, they gave up 14 on the offensive glass - the most since they played the current No. 1 team in the country.  The one possession at the end of the half to put the Ducks up 34-32 was an absolute heartbreaker - five offensive rebounds, followed by a - you guessed it - Devoe Joseph three. Oregon did a great job of moving the ball and penetrating, both of which led to Stanford getting out of sorts defensively, forcing switches and collapses, which in turn left the weak side open on many occasions for a Lightning Yellow-clad lad to come in and get a new 35 for his boys.

This clearly isn't the best way to compare the two games, but Stanford gave up just seven offensive rebounds to USC last Saturday.  Oregon obtained seven more than USC. The Ducks shot just a tad under 50 percent, so say those offensive rebounds led to three made field goals out of seven extra attempts. About one-third of the Oregon makes came from downtown, so say one of those three makes was a trey. That's seven more points right there. This isn't accounting for a ton of factors like free throws and turnovers, but it's some idea on how Oregon racked up the most points anyone has scored against the Card all season.

All that being said, I can't say I'm all that worried. If there's one thing I know about Johnny Dawkins, it's that he is going to hammer home the importance of rebounding in their Friday practice and Saturday shootaround, something his team is already well-aware of. This isn't like two years ago where the Cardinal seemingly couldn't grab a rebound to save their lives; this is a very solid rebounding team that just had an off-night on the glass.

For the most part, Stanford was right there with a team many consider to be on equal footing with the Card. Stanford had the lead with less than 10 minutes to play and it wasn't until the last four-minute stretch that Oregon really pulled away. The Matt was far from a capacity crowd, but it is still the Ducks' home court, and I wouldn't expect an 11-point Duck victory in Cardinalville.

Going forward, the Card are going to need consistent production out of Dwight to seriously compete for a Pac-12 crown. Powell had a rough first half and didn't have much better Andrew in the second (get it? Luck?! Alright, alright, I'm sure you think that is the worst play on words of all time; even I can't believe I'm leaving it in there. We'll see if Boom Boom takes it out! – I'll give it to you, Kevin!), but he did have one very solid possession on defense where he went straight up with his arms and forced a shot that barely grazed the rim. If he can continue to make solid defensive stops, that can give him some confidence to do work on the other end. The talent is definitely still there and I still think he can go off for 20 in a game this season; it's just a matter of Dwight being able to tap into his potential.

While this would have been a huge victory, the Earth didn't stop on its axis tonight for Stanford. Road losses are the norm for just about every team in the Pac-12. With Cal losing, Stanford still has the best overall record in the Pac and are only one-half game behind the - wait for it - Colorado Buffaloes for first place.  We are only a couple of games into conference play, and there's only one team left with an undefeated conference record. The Pac will be just as wide-open (perhaps more) as expected.

Time for the Cardinal to put this loss behind them, as what awaits on Saturday is a date with a very high-scoring Oregon State squad coming off a much-needed win over the Golden Bears.

A preview on the Beavers is to follow. Until then, console yourselves with the fact that a Stanford split in the Beaver State keeps the Card on schedule for an at-large bid.
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