Ducks begin the adjustment
LAS VEGAS — Oregon men's basketball doesn't want to experience this feeling again.
An 83-80 loss to Arizona in the Pac-12 championship game on Saturday literally added insult to injury. It was announced Saturday morning that forward Chris Boucher is out for the season due to a torn ACL — and his absence was felt throughout a game that Oregon had to claw back into.
"Chris is a very talented young man, and he's a big part of our team," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "It was a big blow to our team this morning. He's the one guy that picks everybody up — he's a wonderful young man."
Boucher's injury was a devastating blow for a team with Final Four aspirations. His absence provided a test of Oregon's resolve against an ever-improving and increasingly dangerous Arizona team.
Throughout the game against the Wildcats, the Ducks' resolve was stretched thinner than it has been all season. Arizona finished with a plus-10 rebounding margin, and Oregon shot 27 percent from behind the arc. Boucher's presence could have remedied those issues.
It wasn't all about not having Boucher, though. Oregon struggled some on offense, and the scoring load rested heavily on Dillon Brooks's broad shoulders until the final few minutes.
"We just didn't execute some things that we needed to," Altman said. "We had guys trying to make plays on the offensive end, trying to make plays on the defensive end.
"A few mistakes here or there are the difference in a close ballgame."
Many of the plays Oregon was trying to make came in 1-on-1 situations with very little flow to its offense. Brooks, as usual, was spectacular, but even he had moments where patience would have been a virtue.
The Ducks fell behind by 14 at the 15:22 mark of the second half. Through a tremendous effort by Brooks and supplementary performances from Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell, they came tantalizingly close to tying the score.
A few bounces here, a rebound there, and Oregon could've pulled off an improbable comeback. Instead, the Ducks left Las Vegas with a bitter taste in their mouths as they enter the NCAA Tournament.
"We're going to remember this feeling," Dorsey said. "We're going to bounce back, put it in our rearview mirror and get ready."
Regardless of where they're placed in the NCAA tourney and the challenges they face, the Ducks still have their sights set on the Final Four.
"Our goal is still intact," Dorsey said. "So we've got to get ready."