Dwindling Ducks face WSU
(The Register-Guard) Oregon's free fall hits the three-week mark today, and one more loss would send the Ducks into the Pac-12 cellar.
Oregon (13-5, 1-5) visits Washington State (8-11, 1-6) today with the hope that the last-place Cougars will be the cure for its five-game losing streak. However, a loss to WSU would move the Cougars ahead of the Ducks and, at best, leave Oregon tied with USC for last place at 1-6.
"We just have to play like it's our last game from now on," Oregon junior guard Joseph Young.
All the clichâˆšÂ©s are piling up for the Ducks, who have talked about "must-win" games and having "the weight of the world" on them as their season has taken a drastic U-turn. Oregon woke up three weeks ago today at 13-0 and ranked No. 10 in the nation, but a loss to Colorado that day began the current losing streak.
"We just need one to get started," Young said. "We get one and I feel like everybody will know what a win is again and everyone will be excited."
Added coach Dana Altman: "We've got to get one sometime."
Altman has tried to change things around, adjusting his lineup and rotations in the last four games along with his wardrobe.
Altman shed his usual white dress shirt and tie for a more casual black shirt without a tie for an 80-76 loss at Washington on Thursday. He also inserted point guard Dominic Artis into the starting lineup in place of Johnathan Loyd for the first time all season and gave Ben Carter his first start at forward.
Altman has started a different player alongside Mike Moser in the frontcourt in four straight games, going from Richard Amardi to Waverly Austin to Elgin Cook and then Carter.
"When you are struggling, there is not any one pattern that goes," Altman said. "We had production off the bench (against Washington). I thought Elgin was better and did some good things and Richard did some good things offensively but defensively was not sharp. They all had good moments and some disappointing ones."
It's been a disappointing three weeks for Oregon after two months of nothing but good results.
"We're struggling right now, but we can't put our heads down," Young said. "We have a lot more ball to play. We have to go to Washington State and try to get a win there."
The Cougars are in a similar spot as Oregon but without the high expectations. WSU has lost three straight games since its lone conference win at home against Utah, and coach Ken Bone's seat is getting hotter with each loss.
WSU will be without leading scorer DaVonte Lacy for the sixth straight game with a rib injury. WSU is last in the Pac-12 in scoring at 63 points per game, but with Lacy and his 17.7 points per game out of the lineup, the Cougars have gone over 55 points just once in the past six games.
That's good news for the Ducks, who have given up at least 80 points to five straight opponents for the first time since 1995. Washington shot 57.8 percent against Oregon to become the fourth team in the past five games to shoot at least 52 percent.
"We've got to get some stops, do a better job on the defensive end," Altman said. "That's a big part of it."
Oregon ranked among the nation's top shooting teams for much of the season but shot 37.9 percent and 42.9 percent from the field in its last two games. The Ducks outrebounded Washington 32-25, the first time they had more rebounds than an opponent during the losing streak.
"I thought we competed, we beat them on the boards," Altman said. "We did a lot of good things, but we just didn't finish enough plays."
Altman said his team is still fighting to turn its season around.
"They're down, but they still pull together," Altman said. "I think they are doing fine."
The Ducks are on the road for the third time in four weekends to open the conference schedule, but they return home for five of their next seven games after they leave Pullman.
"There's a lot of season left," Altman said. "We've put ourselves in a bad position, we know that. We have to fight through it. It's not over."
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