EUGENE, Ore.- After Thursday’s brutal one-point loss to Colorado, undoubtedly most thought the Ducks had relinquished both their grasp on the conference lead, as well as their national image in the polls. But come Monday morning, the Ducks still sit atop the conference standings—in a three-way tie with Arizona and UCLA—and somehow remain part of the Associated Press top-25 with a 23rd national ranking.
Oregon, who defeated Utah Saturday 73-64 to break a three-game losing streak, were aided by a California upset of Arizona Sunday night, which brought the Ducks, Wildcats and Bruins even with matching 8-3 Pac-12 records.
“Anybody can lose on any day,” said starting point guard Johnathan Loyd. “The talent level from the top-to-the-bottom in this conference isn’t wide spread. Utah is in last, but they’re giving every body tough games.”
The Utes did just that on Saturday, when they led the Ducks for much of the second half before Oregon rallied to win comfortably.
The Buffaloes sweep of the Oregon schools and California’s win over Arizona at the McKale Center this weekend have been far from the norm in the conference, as only three teams currently maintain winning road records (unsurprisingly, the three at the top of the standings).
That’s what makes Wednesday’s trek north to Washington such a demanding ordeal. Oregon is 3-2 in conference road games, but is coming off a sweep versus the northern California schools. That and the fact that Ducks have beaten the Huskies at Hec Edmundson Pavilion just once in the last 10 years, in 2009, makes Washington the favorite.
“It is a tough place to win up there,” said forward E.J. Singler. “They’ve got a great team, great fans. We’ve just got to go up with a mentality of focus, knowing it’s a business trip. We’ve got to be a team and be really together.”
That sense of team unity was the problem for the Ducks on their last road trip, a winless weekend in the Bay Area, Loyd says.
“You have to stay together. The two games we lost on the road this year to Cal and Stanford, we didn’t really stay together. When adversity hit, we kind of fell apart.
“Now that we’re starting to stick together more and come together more as a team, I think we’re going to do a lot better on the road,” he said.
Oregon does have the psychological advantage of knowing that they can beat the Huskies, a feat they reached at Matthew Knight Arena just three weeks ago.
“I think it gives us confidence [having already beaten Washington], but we also understand that road trips are really hard to win,” Singler said.
Much like the Ducks, who have lost three of their last four, the Huskies are reeling. Washington started conference play with four straight wins, before a loss at home to Utah has seemingly disrupted the Huskie’s mojo, pushing them into a 1-6 funk that they desperately need to overcome.
“It’s two teams that desperately need a win, so both teams will play hard. I hope ours plays well,” said head coach Dana Altman.
In Oregon’s 81-76 win late last month, the Ducks and Huskies played a downright turnover-filled slop fest. Both teams turned it over more than 20 times, Oregon with its first of three consecutive 20 plus turnover games. Wednesday, the team who protects the ball the best will likely come out with the win.
“I think both of us want to cut our turnovers down. We turned it over a lot. They turned it over not quite as bad, but almost. I think we both want to handle the ball better,” Altman said.
As far as adjustments go, that might be the only one made for Wednesday, according to Altman. This late in the season, neither team will change its offensive or defensive philosophies.
“There’s not too many things we can make adjustments on. I think we’ll play pretty much the same way,” Altman said.
The Ducks and Huskies will face off Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at Hec Edmundson Pavillion. The game will be televised on ESPN2.