Just when it appeared to get rolling, Oregon’s Men’s basketball season came to an end tonight with a 61 - 58 loss to Wisconsin in the third round of the NIT. A deep run in the 2nd-tier postseason tournament might have provided a bit of salve to what has been a sometimes frustrating and disappointing season.
Oregon faced the postseason without its top 3 scorers, which didn’t seem to be any kind of factor in the team’s solid first and second round victories over UC Irvine and University of Central Florida. The Ducks scored 84 and 68 points in those games, and played solid defense, winning by 26 and 14.
It’s hard to complain about the scoring defense against Wisconsin, but Oregon’s offense wasn’t clicking quite the way it had earlier in the tournament. The Ducks blocked 8 shots, using the height they have with Nate Bittle, Lok Wur and Kel’el Ware in various combinations. Despite this seeming advantage, Wisconsin outrebounded the Ducks 44 - 35. The 58 points was Oregon’s second-lowest offensive output since early January.
When a team loses by just 3 points, almost anything could have made the difference between losing and winning. But the glaringly negative statistics that stand out were old enemies of this season’s Oregon squad: the Ducks were 6 - 21 (28.6%) from 3-point distance and an inexplicable 4 - 12 (33.3%) from the charity stripe.
The game was close throughout. The Ducks built a 4-point lead out of the gate, and Wisconsin had as much as a 6-point lead in the mid-first half. Oregon cut that lead to one point and the half ultimately ended 27 - 26 for Wisconsin.
For much of the 2nd half, the largest lead either team had was 3 points. The Ducks managed to stretch their lead to 8 on a Rivaldo Soares 3-pointer. Down the stretch, Oregon maintained a 6-point lead with only 3:29 to play on a Keeshawn Barthelemy layup. But the Ducks would score only 4 points the rest of the way on one layup and 2 free throws while missing three 3-pointers and 2 free throws. A Quincy Guerrier 3-pointer at the buzzer was off and that was that.
For the game, Barthelemy led the Ducks with 15 points and Guerrier had 14. Guerrier also had 8 rebounds while Bittle chipped in 7. Guerrier had 3 blocked shots while Bittle and Ware each had 2 blocks. Oregon got less help off the bench than in the two previous NIT games with Ware and Tyrone Williams combining for 9 points, 9 rebounds and the 2 Ware blocks.
Oregon finished the season at 21 - 15 overall with a 4th-place finish in the Pac-12 Conference. Injuries proved to be a real menace for the Ducks, as numerous players were out early in the season and then again late. It’s not hard to imagine how a healthy N’Faly Dante could have changed the outcome of tonight’s game. Oregon now looks to the 2023-24 season, with a number of potentially outstanding new players joining the program.