All of a sudden, Oregon are national heavyweights, coming ahead in the Pac-12 tournament with a win over UCLA, thanks to great rebounding, excellent depth and a huge game from two bench players, Carlos Emory and Jonhathan Loyd.
What a difference if you keep looking ahead a week can make. A week ago at this time I think it’s safe to say that we were probably as low as we could get. But we bounced back. I think it showed a little bit of the character of our team.
Oregon were en route to win the regular season title for the first time since 2002, but lost their final two games of the season, sending the team into a short, clinical depression, if the media descriptions were true. But there’s a reason the Ducks were so good in the Pac-12 this season, finishing one game behind UCLA who clinched the conference regular season title.
It’s because of guys like Arsalan Kazemi, who dominated the board with 13 points and 12 rebounds, helping Oregon get an edge of 35-27 in the game against UCLA, who were really frustrated by the Ducks’ efficiency, making 50% of their three point shots and 47.5% of their field goal attempts.
We lost the opportunity to win one championship, so we said let’s go get another one, and that’s what we did.
Jonathan Loyd came off the bench to score 19 points, also earning him the tournament MVP award, as Oregon won the conference title for the third time, and first since 2007. Loyd, averaging 4.9 points per game this season, scored in double-figures in the semifinal against Utah as well before erupting against UCLA.
The team was led by Carlos Emory, the senior who didn’t play during his first two seasons on the team, but scored 10 points against Utah and 20 points to lead the team in the win over UCLA, who had Shabazz Muhammad playing without Jordan Adams, who broke his foot in the semifinals.
He’s one of our best players, so I guess when you lose one of your best players, it’s always something you’ve got to try to overcome. nd we’ll get better at that.
Muhammad was tied for the best on his team with 14 points, joint with Larry Drew II who also had 14 points. In a season that began in controversy for Muhammad, the regular season turned out pretty well for him, averaging 17.8 points per game for the Bruins in what might be his only season as a College Basketball player.
Too bad for him that it wasn’t the best of tournaments, and that the lack of depth of his team, playing with only two guys off the bench, one of them clocking only 4 minutes, cost a conference double, losing to Oregon 78-69. Talent can’t make up for a short squad and bad defending, not when there’s no one like Kentucky from last season to prove the doubters wrong.
UCLA built all season on their potential one-and-done star to bring this team back to prominence in the conference and the national scene. He did just that, but an injury to another freshman might mean it won’t be too happy of an ending, while a team build the “right” way, Oregon, look to go a bit further in the NCAA tournament than the Bruins will.