After dropping a pair of games in the Bay Area last weekend, the Ducks were in desperate need of a victory against the Colorado Buffaloes to stay atop the Pac-12 conference race, and someone to step up offensively with point guard Dominic Artis in a walking boot.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, the turnover bug came back late to bite them in the behind, and they dropped their first game at Matthew Knight Arena in over a year, leading the whole game until a put-back by Andre Roberson gave Colorado the 48-47 lead with 23 seconds remaining
"It's disappointing," head coach Dana Altman said after the game. "Again, our guys have worked awfully hard and in the course of a week, we've given a lot back. It's going to take a lot of character to come back."
The first half featured two teams unable to mount much of a run against the other. For Oregon, it was a tale of two forwards, with seniors E.J. Singler and Carlos Emory scoring 20 of Oregon's 28 points in the first 20 minutes and finishing with 14 apiece on the night
That same pair provided the brunt of Oregon's turnover troubles tonight as well with nine of Oregon's 12. The Ducks only turned the ball over four times in the first half, but doubled that number in the second, including four in the last five minutes.
"We had some seniors make some really bad decisions," Altman said.
Oregon led 47-40 after a Carlos Emory dunk with 4:26 remaining, but couldn't muster a single point after the last media timeout for the second straight game (the team went scoreless over the final 4:29 against Cal). The Buffaloes slowly clawed their way back into the game, finally breaking Oregon's back with Roberson's basket, their 14th offensive rebound of the game.
After a timeout, the Ducks ran a play for Singler cutting across the lane, but he was cut off and his contested shot didnt' reach the rim. There appeared to be contact by the Colorado defender on Singler's shooting arm, but no call was made.
"Uh, he got a piece of my hand," Singler said when asked about the shot. "It's hard to make that call down the stretch, so I don't know."
Oregon actually out-rebounded Colorado 37-32 on Thursday, including a plus-two advantage on the offensive glass. However, the Buffaloes had 17 second chance points to the Ducks' eight, a stat both Altman and senior Tony Woods said was the difference in the game.
"It's really frustrating, that was one of our emphasis tonight," Woods said.
"They are really really good on the boards, but we weren't successful."
Neither Altman nor the players put much stock in the absence of Artis being a major part of the Ducks' recent struggles, though Altman signaled out his ability to spread the floor as something that is sorely missed.
"D.A. spreads the floor," Altman said. "With our inability to hit perimeter shots, not just by Johnny or Willie but by other players, the floor is shrunk."
Altman also said that junior point guard Johnathan Loyd's confidence was "absolutely" shaken following yet another loss. Loyd didn't score against Colorado, going 0-7 from the floor, including a shot that missed everything with 1:37 left after Oregon used a pair of timeouts during the possession.
"He had a lot of open looks tonight and they didn't go," Altman said. "He's just going to have to bounce back, got to fight it."
The game also featured a pair of statistical oddities, with Oregon being called for twice as many fouls (14) as Colorado (7) over the course of the game, including a 7-2 "advantage" for the Ducks over the final 11:02. Oregon only shot two free throws for the entire game, something Altman said he's never had happen as a basketball coach.
Oregon next takes the floor Saturday against the Utah Utes. The game is at 5 P.M. and will feature the 2012 Oregon Football Team being honored at halftime. For the Ducks, they're more focused on righting a ship that is dangerously close to sinking.