There certainly hasn’t been much to nitpick with Oregon Men’s Basketball over the past couple of weeks.
Following a shocking LA trip in which the Ducks knocked off Top 5 squads UCLA and USC, they returned home this weekend and dismantled the Washington Huskies like never before. It looked like Dana Altman’s boys had already figured out in January what many of his teams discover in February or March.
But suddenly, and somewhat confusingly, it was halted.
Colorado defeated Oregon 82-78, ending the Ducks winning streak at six.
However, it was more the way Oregon lost that will leave fans wondering why. The Ducks came out like a freight train, scoring on their first seven possessions to go up 13-0 to begin the game. They were up 20-5 after a three-point play by Quincy Guerrier.
But from that point on, it seemed like Oregon became stagnant as they maintained the lead but never pushed it as far as it seemed they might.
The Buffaloes took advantage and chipped away, cutting the lead to five at halftime.
As the second half progressed, Colorado continued to make plays, while Oregon went colder and colder, and began to treat routine rebounds like hot potatoes.
After going up 69-63 on a 7-0 run, the Buffaloes held the Ducks in check and left with the win.
The Ducks allowed Colorado to shoot 50% from the field for the game and were outrebounded as well, giving up 18 second-chance points.
After their recent run had them firmly in conversations for an NCAA Tournament berth, Oregon did exactly what it can’t afford to do anymore; lose to an unranked team, especially at home.
Although they did not seem disorganized and aloof like they did in some ugly early-season blowout losses, there was a definite sense of complacency about the Ducks once they jumped out to the early lead.
No team is going to just quit and go away after you get going on a hot start, and the killer instinct Oregon showed down the stretch against the Bruins was nowhere to be found this time.
The Ducks have one more game in January, which is Saturday against bottom-dwelling Oregon State. Then, to begin February, Oregon travels to Boulder for a rematch with Colorado, a place where an Altman-coached team has never won.
To finish the month, Oregon faces ranked Arizona, UCLA, and USC in three consecutive games. Suffice to say, the Ducks will have their work cut out for them.
The good news is that under Altman, Oregon has won 75% of its games from February on, tops in the Pac-12. It could certainly be an exciting month, but it could also make or break the Ducks.
The closer March gets, the slimmer and slimmer the margin for error becomes. Blowing 15-point leads and losing games while scoring 78 points cannot happen. If Oregon slips up like this again, they may have shot themselves in the foot for the last time.
The Ducks are still orbiting the tournament bubble, but to begin poking at it and eventually break through, a renewed sense of urgency and focus must be on display. This team has shown already it is capable of great things, but that won’t be given to them, it must be earned.