Some days, you just can’t get it together. Some days, your shoe comes off and you get called for traveling trying to put it back on. Some days, you get called for a blocking foul on what should have been called an offensive foul at a key moment because you’re “in the cylinder” at your own offensive end where “the cylinder” should not even be operative. Oregon came out flat, fell way behind in the first half, fell short despite a furious rally in the second half, and lost their second game of the season to a team they should have beaten handily. Utah Valley State outhustled, outshot and outlasted Oregon, beating the Ducks on their own home court 77 - 72.
The Ducks started off better than they have in some earlier games this season. Will Richardson, Jr and N’Faly Dante each scored inside and Oregon had a 4 - 0 lead. But Utah Valley State quickly tied the game at 8-all as the Wolverines started hitting from outside and the Ducks missed some easy inside buckets. Oregon took its last lead of the game at 10 - 8 on two free throws from Richardson with 13:43 left in the first half. Utah Valley went on a 7-point scoring run due to an uncontested layup, a 3-pointer and a 2-point shot from the lane. Meanwhile Oregon had a turnover and a shot clock violation. The Wolverines built an 18 - 12 lead at 9:50 but Brennan Rigsby’s only 3-pointer of the game and a free throw by Richardson after a Utah Valley “flopping” technical and following 2-point jumper tied the game again at 8:10. But the Wolverines immediately went on a 10 - 0 run over the next 3 minutes as Oregon missed shots and repeatedly failed to get back in transition defense. The Utah Valley State lead hung around double digits, reaching 11 points at 33 - 22 with 3:34 left in the half. The Wolverines would then go on another run - this one 8 - 2 - to close out the first half with a 41 - 24 lead at Matthew Knight Arena. During this 3-minute steamrollering, Rigsby had his left shoe work off his foot while he was holding the ball, and while trying to get his foot back in the shoe made a little hop with his right foot and was called for traveling. It was just that kind of night.
For the half, Richardson scored 15 and Rigsby 3. Dante and Rigsby each had 4 rebounds. As a team, Oregon had only 2 assists and shot just 27.6 percent from the field and a really abysmal 1 - 8 (12.5%) from beyond the 3-point arc. All the Oregon players not named Richardson put together were 3 - 20.
Down 17 points at home, Oregon’s mission was clear: improve literally every aspect of their game. The Ducks did start to play a little better defense as Coach Dana Altman threw on a full-court press to try to light a fire under his players. Oregon held Utah Valley State to just 2 points over the first 4 minutes of the half, but still couldn’t get much going on their offensive end. The Ducks did manage to score 6 points during this period, cutting the Wolverines lead to 43 - 30 at 16:12. The teams traded a few baskets, a few missed shots and a few turnovers and Utah Valley State still led 49 - 33 on another runout layup at 14:33 after an Oregon turnover. Oregon still trailed by 16 points - 56 - 40 - at 11:45 on another Wolverine drive and bucket. At this point, Oregon began to play better basketball sporadically, going on their own 8 - 2 run to cut the lead to a more manageable 10 points with 9:04 left. The Ducks were still hit and miss on both ends of the court, however, and were still behind by 11 at 7:31. Quincy Guerrier then scored 7 straight points to cut Oregon’s deficit to just 4 points at 62 - 58 with 5:47 left, aided by 2 missed Wolverine free throws, and things were looking up for the Ducks. Guerrier’s 3-pointer during this run was just Oregon’s 2nd for the entire game to that point.
The game turned again, however, as Utah Valley State scored again in the lane, and then made one of two free throws on a subsequent possession while Oregon failed to score. Especially painful was an Oregon possession where the Ducks had a shot inside, and several tips by Dante and Kel’el Ware that wouldn’t go in. Oregon still had time, down 65 - 59 with 4:27 left but needed to stop having empty possessions while also getting some stops. This they did as the Ducks again went on a mini-run, outscoring the Wolverines 7 - 3 over the next 3 minutes to make it anyone’s game at 68 - 66 on two Guerrier free throws with 90 seconds to play. But Oregon could never get the lead, and eventually had to send the Wolverines to the free throw line in hopes of a miss that never came. Utah Valley State walked away with a 77 - 72 win.
For the game, Richardson scored 26 for the Ducks. Dante and Guerrier came on in the second half, ending up with 17 and 14 points respectively. Dante had 15 rebounds and Lok Wur had 8 off the bench along with 2 blocked shots. The Ducks again reached double digits in turnovers. Oregon shot just 35.8 percent from the field and were only 3 - 19 from beyond the 3-point arc as well as missing 7 free throws.
One likes to think that these non-Conference games aren’t all that important, as the Ducks can still have a great season by winning lots of Conference games and/or doing well in the Pac-12 tournament. However, along with last month’s loss to UC Irvine, this is the second surprising home loss this season to a team Oregon should have been able to beat. Pac-12 competition top-to-bottom should be tougher.
Oregon’s shooting woes are inexplicable, particularly the way the team just keeps launching 3-pointers despite many of them not coming close to going in. It begs the question of whether the strategy of offensive balance from using outside shots to open up the middle for Dante and Ware is the right one. The Ducks 3-point shooting is extremely streaky and not very reliable. Most of Oregon’s offensive success, in this game at least, came from working the ball inside to Dante, or from Richardson or Guerrier driving to the basket. Utah Valley State scored a lot of points on runout layups on long rebounds from missed Oregon 3s.
Oregon now has 11 days off to celebrate the holidays and get some things fixed in practice. Their next action is on New Year’s Eve at 5:00 pm as Oregon State comes calling at Matthew Knight Arena. That game will be available on Pac-12 Networks.