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Ducks Pac-12 free fall continues in 80-76 loss to Huskies

Oregon's conference struggles continued on Thursday night as the Ducks dropped their fifth straight conference game. How's that soul searching going, Dana?

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon’s Pac-12 free fall continued on Thursday night as the Ducks fell to the Washington Huskies 80-76 at the Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle. After a 13-0 start to the season, the loss marked the fifth consecutive for the Ducks in Pac-12 play as they’ve found themselves near the bottom of the conference. Yes, they’ve joined the Washington State Cougars in a dark, lonely place from which there seems to be no escape out of.

Joseph Young led Oregon offensively with 18 points, while Richard Amardi had a nice night off the bench with 11 points and nine rebounds. The Ducks bench outscored Washington’s bench 37-11, but the Huskies had three starters in double figures, led by C.J. Wilcox’s 23 points, including a dagger of a three-pointer in the game’s final minute. Andrew Andrews and Perris Blackwell also proved to be a headache for the Ducks, scoring 17 and 15 points respectively.

Right from the get-go, Ben Carter and Dominic Artis, both new to the starting lineup, made early contributions in the opening minutes. Carter crashed the boards with three rebounds in the first four minutes while Artis added a deep three off one of Carter’s boards.

After that three-pointer, the Ducks went on a scoring drought, going nearly seven minutes without a field goal. The Huskies would take advantage and go on a 10-0 run during that time period. However, the Ducks made up for their dry spell with a jumper from Elgin Cook and a three-point play from leading scorer Joseph Young to tie things back up. Things could have gotten ugly early, but the Ducks were able to simmer down and not let things get out of hand when their shooters went cold for a few moments.

Late in the first half, the Ducks began to build a lead once again with a 7-0 scoring run which included a three-pointer from Mike Moser, but a three-pointer and a layup from Andrews off a steal tied things right back up at 28-28.

In one of my personal favorite moments of the season so far, Ben Carter threw up what the stat book will call a pass off the backboard, falling into the hands of Richard Amardi below the rim who put it up for the three-point play. After a layup from Amardi on the ensuing possession, the Ducks had that familiar five-point lead once again. But you know what happens next.

The Huskies responded right back with a scoring run of their own, and a three from Wilcox tied things right back up at 33-33, the ninth tie of the first half alone. Neither team led by more than five points during the first 20 minutes.

Despite nine first half turnovers, the Ducks led 35-33 at the half over the Huskies in large part thanks to Oregon’s effort crashing the boards, outrebounding Washington 19-10 in the first half, including eight offensive rebounds.  The halftime lead also marked the first time the Ducks were on top at the end of the first half since playing Morgan State back on December 29.

The Huskies came out of the break with a 6-0 run to jump back into the lead, beating Oregon’s 2-3 zone with layups from Blackwell and Nigel Williams-Goss, forcing the Ducks to switch back to man-to-man defense in order to stop the run.

In the spirit of the back-and-forth game, the Ducks responded right back with a big dunk from Amardi and a fancy three-point play off the fast break from Jason Calliste to give the Ducks a 45-44 lead.

There were plenty of momentum shifts, but neither team could grab total control. After three-pointers from Darin Johnson and Wilcox for the Huskies and a three-pointer from Calliste in response, the Huskies led 53-52 midway through the second half.

The crowd at the Alaska Airlines Arena came to life after a thunderous dunk from Shawn Kemp Jr. gave the Huskies a five-point lead, tied for their largest of the night. Inside baskets for the Ducks kept them in the game, preventing the Huskies from pulling too far ahead. When the outside shot selection wasn’t there, it was points in the paint that kept things close.

After a circus-like series of events involving a dunk from Amardi, a sloppy possession from the Huskies that somehow ended in points, and a three-pointer from Young, the Ducks found themselves trailing by just two points with 4:35 to go.

The Huskies responded back with a timely 5-0 run to build their lead back up to seven with just under three minutes to go. A pair of opportunities at the free throw line for Young, including one off a forced turnover from the full court press, brought Oregon back within three as the Ducks refused to let Washington pull away. Altman stuck with the press despite Oregon bringing the score back to a one-possession game, trying to force more late errors on Washington’s end.

With 1:12 left on the clock, Johnathan Loyd got away with a push off offensive foul, coming up big under the rim for the three-point lead to cut Washington’s lead to just one.

Then, on the ensuing possession, Wilcox delivered the dagger. With Loyd too concerned with the potential screen coming to his right, Wilcox was given simply too much space at the top of the arc, draining a deep three-pointer to give the Huskies a 76-72 lead with 44 seconds to play. Elgin Cook tried to respond back with a three-pointer of his own, but the shot fell off the mark, and a pair of free throws by Andrews extended Washington’s lead to six with 28 seconds to go. Wilcox’s three was all the Huskies would need to hold off the Ducks to hand them their fifth consecutive loss.

The Ducks are in a free fall, and clearly they are going to need more than just some soul searching if they have any hope of saving the season. Yes, it’s only January, but five straight losses after a 13-0 start? The conference is running away from the Ducks and if they don’t come up with some answers quickly, they can kiss the NCAA tournament goodbye. However, there’s a silver lining in everything. What’s the silver lining here, you ask? Oregon gets to play Washington State on Sunday, the only team in the conference with more losses than the Ducks in Pac-12 play so far.

Huzzah for a weekend trek to Pullman!