Sunday, February 6, 2011

Oregon hand #20 Washington third straight loss 81-76

By Kshell

The Oregon Ducks(12-11,5-6) for the second straight year shocked the Washington Huskies(15-7,7-4) this year by a score of 81-76 in Eugene, Oregon. The Huskies have now lost three games in a row all of which were in the Northwest against teams Lorenzo Romar has historically dominated. What many forget is in the first game in Seattle the Ducks played the Huskies pretty close but the Huskies pulled away late in that contest. The Huskies once again shot to many three pointers and once again didn't make enough three point shots. The Huskies also aren't hitting their free throws and simply not playing good enough defense. The Huskies were off to their best start in Pac-10 play at 7-1 now find themselves a full two games back of Arizona and even trailing UCLA which puts the Huskies in third place. At the start of the year Pac-10 championship was the expectation and March Madness was a given. Now the Huskies will once again have to scratch and claw just to make the NCAA tournament because of this horrible week they just experienced.

The Huskies for the third straight game struggled playing defense in the first half. The Huskies were led in the first half by Matthew Bryan-Amaning who scored 12 points on six for nine shooting. That wasn't enough as the Huskies trailed the Ducks 37-34 at halftime. The Ducks came out hot hitting four three pointers right from the start but quickly slowed down. The Ducks scored 18 points off of Huskies turnovers in the first half. Other than Bryan-Amaning the Huskies didn't receive much from anyone else. Once again Isaiah Thomas struggled scoring only three points as he jacked up three three pointers making just one and only had two assists. Justin Holiday had just five points but had three assists on two for three shooting including a three. The Huskies received a big boost from big man Aziz N'Diaye who had four points but had six rebounds on two for two shooting. Just like the previous meeting Terrence Ross from Jefferson High School had six points both on three pointers.

The Huskies in the first half shot 14-27(51.9%)from the field and 5-12(41.6%) from three point range but still found themselves trailing. The Ducks weren't necesarily shooting lights out as they shot just 14-34(41.1%) from the field and 4-13(30.8%) from three point range. They did shoot a perfect five for five from free throws while the Huskies missed three of four free throws. The Huskies dominated the boards 21-9 in the first half. For the second time in three games the Huskies dominated their opponent in rebounding yet had zero to show for it. The Huskies weren't taking care of the ball in the first half. In the second the Ducks shooting finally woke up and they lived on the free throw line.

The Ducks completed the upset in the second half with better shooting. The Huskies had cut down on their turnovers but the Ducks were very efficent. The Ducks shot 14-28(50.0%) from the field, two for eight from three pointers and 14-18(77.7%) on free throws. While the Huskies shot well themselves 16-32(50.0%) and 6-15(40.0%) on three pointers. The Huskies were just four for seven(57.1%) from the free throw line. Ultimately with the Huskies shooting all those three pointers they weren't getting to the line. The Huskies were upset for the third straight game 81-76. Both teams had four guys in double figures but the game came down to free throws. The Ducks shot 19-23(82.6%) to the Huskies 5-11(45.5%) from the foul line. If the Huskies expect to win again they must get to the free throw line more and when they do make their free throws.

For the Huskies they had four guys in double figures this game. Led by Matthew Bryan-Amaning who scored 21 points on 10-16(62.5%) shooting but had just five rebounds. Justin Holiday busted out of his slump scoring 16 points on six for eight shooting including four of six from three point range. Holiday also had five rebounds and five assists with three blocks. Another Husky who stepped up was freshman Terrence Ross who scored 12 points on 4-10 shooting but four for nine on three's(44.4%). Ross is to good of an athlete to just shoot nothing but three pointers all game. Isaiah Thomas scored 13 points on 5-10 shooting but was just one for five from three pointers. Thomas did have six rebounds and five assists to just two turnovers. Aziz N'Diaye also had a nice game with only five points but had nine rebounds helping the Huskies control the rebounding advantage.

Now the Huskies return home from their disasterous road trip. When they left for the road they had their best start in Pac-10 play in 25 years. Now when they return home they find themselves in third place in the Pac-10. Romar must find a way to turn this mess around. The Huskies have had slumps in the middle of the 2006 and 2010 seasons which guys like Dave "Softy" Mahler has been beating like a drum. Unfortunately just going to the sweet 16 as a average seed wasn't acceptable for this team. This team was supposed to go to the elite eight or possibly even final four. Instead the Huskies will have to turn it around or they won't even play in the NCAA tournament. Losing to all three Northwest schools on the road wasn't supposed to happen this year. Now the Huskies have just seven games left in Pac-10 play to turn this around. The Huskies will finish with five of those seven at home so they should rebound. Will they rebound enough to win the Pac-10? The Huskies will need Arizona and UCLA to fall apart much like they did this weekend. However you want to say it this week was completely unacceptable.


- The Huskies were favorites this year because of guard play. The Huskies also played great pressure defense in the past causing turnovers to create easy points. The Huskies this year aren't getting any of that. With the loss of Abdul Gaddy the guard play took a hit but with Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton were expected to carry the load.

The reason the Huskies are struggling is Venoy Overton is playing terrible. Overton on the season is averaging just 5.0 points per game which is his worse season since he was a freshman. Overton hasn't scored in double figures since December 29th against USC which was the first Pac-10 game of the season. Since that first Pac-10 game in the last 10 games is averaging just 4.1 points per game with just 2.6 assists per game. Overton is also turning the ball over during those 10 games with 1.7 turnovers a game. He is only getting 1.0 steals a game which is down from his career average of 1.4 steals a game.

With Overton struggling the way he has lately the team simply can't win games. Overton last season was a spark plug averaging 8.5 points per game with 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals a game. The Huskies need that Overton to come back or else their season won't go very far.

- Isaiah Thomas appeared to break out of his slump but still didn't play very well. The good news is Thomas didn't turn the ball over seven times like the previous two games. The bad news is Thomas still isn't shooting very well from three point range. In the team's three losses Thomas has shot just 4-17(23.5%) from three point range. Thomas needs to stop shooting so many three pointers if he is going to miss that much.

Thomas is having a good season but there is to much pressure on him due to Overton playing so poorly. Thomas is the only guy on the team who is capable of getting to the free throw line. Thomas is the only one who is getting assists as well. Thomas has had at least five assists or more in 10 straight games which is when Overton has been playing poorly.

- Romar teams typically struggle in the middle of the season then turn it around. There is also a reason why Romar teams ceiling tends to be just sweet 16. Losses like this past week means the Huskies will most likely receive an average seed so you'll have to go back east to play a stellar team in the round of 16. That is also assuming this team makes it that far. With Overton playing so poorly and the Huskies become so reliant on three point shots this team doesn't look as good as they once were.

The Huskies have also shot 96 two pointers the last three games but 87 three pointers. The Huskies have only made 29 of those three pointers as well. When you are shooting basically a 1:1 ratio of two point field goals and three point field goals you aren't going to win. When you miss three's that leaves you open to transition buckets and you won't go to the foul line at all.

Romar needs to emphasis to his guys to work the ball inside. Matthew Bryan-Amaning despite all his critics is having a great season. They need to figure Bryan-Amaning in the post. The Huskies have athletes like Justin Holiday and Terrence Ross who are capable shooters but Romar needs to have them realize that slashing to the hole is the way to go. This past weeks losses fall squarely on Romar's shoulders and at what point will fans be tired of these type of performances? Or is just making the NCAA tournament the one and only goal?

All in all, the Huskies need to run an offense which features post play. The Huskies need to use their athletic ability to trap and pressure on defense. Use that athletic ability to drive and slash to the hole. If you cut to the hole Thomas will find you with his incredible passing skills. These losses aren't the end of the world and the Huskies could still win a National Championship that is the great thing about March. The goal was to win the Pac-10 and unless Arizona Wildcats fall apart that doesn't appear to happen. The Huskies must get hot and play better basketball if they wish to play in March and advance in March.

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