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GAME THREAD: Oregon (12-5, 3-2) at No. 8 WSU (15-1, 3-1)

Posted by Jeff Nusser on January 20, 2008

Beasley Coliseum (Pullman), 5 p.m. PT
TV: FSN

BennettFor the rest of the country, some of the luster came off this matchup when the Ducks tanked in Seattle three days ago. Not for us.

It’s one thing to lose to a team. It’s another thing to lose to another team 13 consecutive times.

But it’s still another thing altogether to lose 13 consecutive times to Phil Knight U., its tens of millions of dollars of resources and their legions of irritating and completely undeservedly arrogant fans.

As much as I dislike the Huskies, because I have plenty of friends and family that are Washington fans I like watching them lose mostly to see them humbled. When Oregon loses, I take a sadistic pleasure in their failure, even when it’s the Huskies that inflict the pain. Maybe that’s twisted. I don’t know. But if there’s one thing Cougars and Huskies can agree on, it’s that we all hate Oregon. And I’m OK with that.

With that in mind, I don’t just hope we win today. I hope we embarrass Oregon on national TV, exposing the Ducks for the fraud that they are, to the tune of a 20-point victory.

How best to do that? Games are all about matchups, and it might be high time for the Cougs to throw a wrinkle at the Ducks. The Bennett defense is based almost exclusively on keeping players out of the paint, but that’s just what the Ducks want you to do — collapse on drives and kick out.

Good teams show they can adapt. Will Tony Bennett continue to try and impose his will on Oregon? Or will he wise up and adapt so that his team, which has been better than the Ducks for two years now, do something a little different? Jump screens? Pressure the ball at 25 feet? I’m hoping for the latter, because we do not want Porter or Taylor or Hairston to get hot from the perimeter. Let’s make them uncomfortable with their stroke and force them to take it in amongst the trees.

You might ask, “Why the focus on defense?” Because Oregon can’t stop anyone. The Ducks win with offense. Period. End of story. They’ve allowed every conference opponent to exceed a 100 offensive efficiency rating, and the Cougs have only had two games all year under 100 — Gonzaga and Washington. Oregon doesn’t even begin to approach that kind of defensive intensity.  The Ducks will try to outshoot you, and if they can’t, they will lose.

One final word on matchups: Watch out for the Aron Baynes/Maarty Leunen battle. The winner there will give his team a massive advantage in the overall contest. You’ll hear a lot of talk about trying to get Leunen in foul trouble because Oregon is so pitifully thin up front, but that’s just wishful thinking. Leunen is far too savvy for that. The only guy able to come even close to doing that to Leunen this year was Jon Brockman, and we’re kidding ourselves if we think that any one of our big man can do to Leunen what Brockman did.

More likely is that Leunen channels his inner Vlade Divac and begins flopping all over the place every time Baynes even looks like he’s going to make contact. Baynes will then have a choice. Will he go Shaq and frustrate himself right out of the game with a series of cheap fouls? Or will he outsmart an opponent for once, relying on his brains instead of his brute strength? Given the way last week ended for Baynes, I see redemption today.

I think the Cougs dominate this one from tip to finish with an intensity the Ducks just can’t match — picture UCLA’s effort last weekend. WSU wins this one going away, sending the Ducks and their ugly uniforms waddling back to Eugene after being swept right out of Washington.

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12 Responses to “GAME THREAD: Oregon (12-5, 3-2) at No. 8 WSU (15-1, 3-1)”

  1. Nuss said

    Sweet. Only four minutes gone and Oregon already is 2-of-2 from 3 with a long jumper at the end of the shot clock that should have never counted. In the meantime, Kyle Weaver has missed two free throws and Aron Baynes has missed three gimmes and commited a dumb foul. What a start.

    Seriously, why can’t we ever come out and play like a Top 10 team at the beginning of a game? This is so ridiculous.

  2. Nuss said

    Did I mention Oregon is a terrible defensive team? Sheesh. We’re making the Ducks look like UCLA right now. I feel like this is UCLA all over again — we’re getting good looks but not converting. It mystifies me why this is such a problem. I’m sure Tony Bennett feels the same way.

  3. longball said

    These slow starts have to be addressed. They’re going to add up to a lot of Pac-10 losses. We are just a mess anywhere near the basket. Why so much trouble finishing underneath?

  4. Nuss said

    This is bad, bad news that it’s 21-11 and we’ve been completely unable to make any kind of hay whatsoever with Taylor and Hairston on the bench.

  5. Nuss said

    I don’t know what the deal is with finishing underneath. It becomes an epidemic after a while. They finish like they’re waiting for a big shot blocker that isn’t there. I’m also mystified at this point with the complete inability/unwillingness to get Baynes the ball in the post.

    On the bright side, I always felt like Low’s aggression would pay off, even if he misses the first few. I think he’s heating up.

  6. longball said

    I wish Weaver could shoot half as well from the free throw line as Dejuan Porter shoots from half court.

  7. longball said

    Not impressed. This is text book “how to lose to Oregon.” We better create some space on the scoreboard because if this comes down to who makes big shots at the end of the game (as it always does when we play the Ducks) they just have way more guns.

  8. Nuss said

    OK, so it wasn’t exactly the blowout early I predicted. But the Cougs have shown their typical heart getting back into a game, down by only 4 at the half. This game really changed for me when three things happened:

    1) WSU started moving aggressively to the basket.
    2) Daven Harmeling started guarding Leunen.
    3) WSU started aggressively jumping the 3-point shot, even at the expense of giving up the drive.

    Nice job of the Cougs adjusting to the flow of the game. As Bennett said on his way to the locker room, when you’re missing the close ones, all you can do is keep taking them. They really were able to break down the Ducks and get to the rim — a byproduct of Oregon employing the same overextended defense UCLA played. Good job of countering with drives and cuts.

    Harmeling’s quickness — not sure I thought I’d ever say that — really neutralized Leunen to a large degree, at least offensively. Once they had him out of his rhythm, the Cougs started rotating other guys on him, and he hasn’t really been a factor since.

    With the notable exception of Porter’s last 3, the 3-point defense got MUCH better once they decided to more or less not leave any shooters on the perimeter. That’s what we had to do, because Taylor and Hairston really are the Ducks’ only real threats to drive and finish. With them on the bench, it made sense to jump the 3 hard. It’ll be interesting to see if it still works when they come back in the game.

    All in all, not so bad considering the missed layups early and Weaver’s four missed free throws. I hereby completely revise my prediction: This game is going to be tight all the way to the end.

  9. longball said

    wow, still cant finish and cant buy a defensive rebound.

  10. longball said

    Cowgill needs to be sat down for Harmeling, stat.

  11. longball said

    Cougs survive! For a moment there i thought the 1st half basket the Ducks scored with the shot clock expired might be the difference and i was going to have a coronary.

  12. Nuss said

    I thought the missed FTs were going to be the difference. THAT would have given ME a coronary.

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