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GAME THREAD: Pac-10 Tournament, (3) WSU vs. (6) Oregon

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 13, 2008

No. 21 Cougars (23-7 overall, 11-7 Pac-10) vs. Ducks (18-12, 9-9)

Staples Center (Los Angeles), 6 p.m. PDT

Of the four games today, I look for three of them to be great. This should be one of them.

I find that these previews get harder and harder to write as the season goes along, because there just aren’t a lot of secrets out there between teams when they play a second and third time. But there are some interesting statistical trends with the Ducks that can give us some insight into how this game might unfold.

Oregon comes into this game having won three straight to revive its Tournament hopes — Joe Lunardi has them in the field as a No. 11 seed today — but I’d caution against getting too worked up about the Ducks being hot.

Real Duck Fan commented on another post this morning that this Oregon squad is a different team this time around, I’m guessing largely because of the recent winning streak. It’s not. It’s the same team, looking to do what it’s always done — shoot the ball with abandon — only doing it a lot better over the past three games, almost all of that attributable to opponent and location.

The first win in the “streak” came at Oregon State, so throw that one out the window. The last two came at home against Arizona State and Arizona. Now, those aren’t two walkovers, but those are the fifth- and seventh-place teams in the conference. And the games were at Mac Court, where the Ducks are 12-3 … and never to play again. They’re just 6-9 in road and neutral contests — like the one they’re playing tonight.

The common thread between the home wins and the road losses, generally speaking, is offense.

For one, the Ducks shoot better at Mac Court (58.6 effective field goal percentage) than they do away from there (54 eFG%). The eFG% has something to do with the fact that the Ducks have a 118.5 offensive efficiency rating at home but just 106.4 on the road, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Ducks also have a 42.9 free throw rate at home versus just 32.5 on the road. Whether they’re more aggressive or there’s a little home cooking going on at Mac Court, the Ducks go to the line a heck of a lot more at home, and it’s a huge boost to their offense.

(Interesting side note: There is very little difference in their defensive splits; they’re just as bad at home as on the road. Make of that what you will.)

So, let’s revisit this three-game win streak.

In those three recent wins, Oregon shot 56.7, 61.0 and 68.8 eFG% (anything around 50 is OK, 55 is good, 60 is great, and anything approaching 70 is ridiculous) and 59.6, 56.1, 39.6 free throw rate. But the three losses before that? Just 53.9 (against the Cougs), 53.3 and 52.8 eFG%, and 35.9, 23.3 and 24.1 free throw rate.

Put simply, the Ducks either need to shoot the lights out or wear a path to the free throw line to be proficient on offense. If they don’t do either, they lose. (See for yourself.) And that, more than anything, explains why the Cougs have had success against Oregon this year: The Ducks have neither shot well nor gotten to the free throw line much in those two contests.

The Ducks shot just 51 eFG% in Pullman, then put up that 53.9 eFG% in Eugene. You can thank the poor 3-point shooting for that — just 11-of-37 in the two contests combined. Outside of Maarty Leunen, who has made 7-of-14 against the Cougs, the rest of the Ducks shot 4-of-23. Ouch. Additionally, the Ducks’ free throw rates against WSU were just 27.1 and 35.9 (the latter, higher figure coming at Mac Court).

The explanation is fairly simple. Lacking a penetrator along the lines of Aaron Brooks, the Ducks don’t have the ability to get into the lane and draw fouls, making it much easier for the Cougs to get out on shooters and keep them from open looks — especially little Tajuan Porter, who needs some space to get his shot off.

And that’s the one guy the Cougs probably will focus their attention on more than any other today. Porter has shot well the last two games, and Oregon’s offense tends to go as he goes — kind of like when Derrick Low hits one of his hot streaks — so look for the Cougs to do anything they can to keep him from getting a rhythm.

On the Cougar end of the court, there’s not much to say that’s not been said already.

It’s going to come down to what we always need to do: Stay patient, run the motion offense, get some things going to the basket, and don’t settle for too many outside shots. This is not an opponent who cares to work for 35 seconds on defense and will tire at the end of games if you make them play hard at both ends. The two games this year were examples 1a and 1b of that.

The last game really changed when Baynes got aggressive, so let’s see how that back is doing. And let’s hope Low can work some of his magic once again — he’s averaging 21.5 points in his last four games against Oregon.

This should be a close and exciting game, but I think the fact that’s it’s away from Mac Court — despite Oregon winning this tournament in this venue last year — gives the edge to the Cougs.


60 Responses to “GAME THREAD: Pac-10 Tournament, (3) WSU vs. (6) Oregon”

  1. Coastal Duck said

    I think you nailed it, Nuss – a very fair, arms-length evaluation.

    I really like the way your team plays – the motion offense, especially – how I wish EK could coax some movement out of those statues placed symetrically around the perimeter of the 3-point line.

    I think, as a former athlete, you just feel more “comfortable” playing against some teams than others – and Low has certainly been “comfortable” playing against the Ducks.

    Obviously, the Ducks’ offense depends in large part on the 3-pointer and if they aren’t falling, it gets ugly fast.

    I think Maarty has been TOO unselfish for most of the year and needs to shoot the 3-ball more – he has a great touch out to at least 22′, and if he hits some of those early, it might draw a Coug big man out from his normal “packed-in” position in the key area, allowing the undersized Hairston and Catron to work the offensive boards.

    We are still a little dinged up with Porter’s groin still an issue and Taylor’s knee still on the mend, so chasing Low and “Lefty” around all those picks from Baynes and Cowgill will be telling at the end – as you have correctly pointed out.

    The “ace-in-the-hole-” defensively has been Longmire, a RS freshman, who comes off the bench to provide a ton of energy – he has also developed a nice touch from outside and has double-digit offensive capability.

    Lacking a seasoned point guard, such as Brooks, has had more than its expected negative impact on the offensive flow – although Porter seems to be “getting it,” lately, that he has to be willing to distribute the rock to our other guys, rather than trying to do everything by himself.

    Hairston has become more aggressive lately as he realizes that his career is almost over, so look for him to “will” the Ducks past the Cougs and into the Dance (I think we may be NIT-bound, if not).

    Bottom line, for me, is that EK has not developed his bench as he should have earlier in the season, and that will come back to haunt him, both in this tourney, the (most-likely) NIT, and ultimately, his job. (Too bad, though, ‘cuz he IS a good recruiter – just not an Xs-and-Os man.)

  2. Nuss said

    Great, unbiased breakdown from the Duck perspective. I agree with you about Leunen. He probably defers too much, but from what I’ve seen it’s usually more because his teammates just aren’t smart enough to feed him the ball — lots of individuals who generally don’t like to share the ball. (Perhaps that’s why you enjoy watching the Cougs’ motion offense.)

    And I agree that Hairston is the big wild card here. I’ve always felt he was one of the biggest underachievers of the past few years — way too passive for a guy with his strength and agility. If he truly is being more aggressive, that could spell trouble for any Oregon opponent.

    As they say, nobody does less with more than Ernie Kent.

  3. Jo-Jo said

    I’m in for some commentary, who’s missed me?

  4. Longball said

    I missed you Jo Jo. Great start so far. Did you see that catch by Baynes on the Weaver assist? Wowzah!

  5. Jo-Jo said

    actually I’m a little behind on the tivo. but I’ll look for it. Alway happy to see Baynes actually handle a pass.

  6. Longball said

    oops, i should have given a spoiler alert. I’ll let you comment first until you catch up.

  7. Jo-Jo said

    No big, I’m not too far behind.

  8. Jo-Jo said

    Oh yeah, Baynes.

  9. Longball said

    Let me know when you get to the part where Baynes shatters the backboard.


  10. Jo-Jo said

    That’s funny. Really though, decent start. I’m still not satisfied with the offense, but the Cougs do look more relaxed than Oregon.

  11. Jo-Jo said

    Why is Jeremy Cross in the game?

  12. Longball said

    Remember he got significant minutes at ORegon last year. Maybe Tony feels we need to be deeper at gaurd against the gaurd heavy ducks. Our gaurds are going to chase TP all over the place, so they’ll need al the energy they can get.

  13. Jo-Jo said

    Cross has been a train wreck in his minutes tonight. TP is a bum. He’s almost better when you chase him. You just need to trip him as he runs through screens.

  14. Jo-Jo said

    I like it when Cowgill dunks.

  15. Longball said

    I love it, Rochestie has the ball and you can hear the Oregon bench yelling “LEFT, he’s going LEFT!” and he goes right and then dishes for the big assist.

  16. Jo-Jo said

    Sniper in the tower. What happened to Forrest?

  17. Longball said

    I was waiting for you to see that. was there a 2nd shooter on the grassy knoll?

  18. Jo-Jo said

    Okay, half-time. Gotta give my daughter a guitar lesson. I’ll catch up in the second half.

  19. Longball said

    Dude, play Freebird!

  20. Nuss said

    OK, enough of the two-man show! 😉

    Although the end of the half isn’t what we would like, I love what we’re doing right now. (The last time I said that was against Stanford, though …)

    Our offense looks good, but our defense looks spectacular. Even the shots that Oregon is making are under duress, which is a sure recipe for success against that team. I love the fact that our offense isn’t just hot — we’re getting great looks from multiple sets. That’s awesome.

    I’m over at someone else’s house, so I probably won’t be posting again, but I very much like what I see. The Cougs are outclassing the Ducks right now.

  21. Longball said

    Weaver is an assist machine tonight.

  22. Jo-Jo said

    Bro, my little girl is seven, it’s more like hot cross buns.

    Nuss said everything I was thinking. Nothing amazing about the offense, which is probable for the best, but it is solid. Defense; outstanding, Ducks; packing their bags.

  23. Longball said

    Get her over the inevitable Skynard faze early, is what i say.

  24. Jo-Jo said

    The only thing keeping Rochestie from being my hero is a missed layup against Stanford.

  25. Longball said

    The announcers are talking a lot about how “slow” Rochestie is. I only see evidence of quickness from where i’m sitting.

  26. Jo-Jo said

    No kidding. If he is so slow, why does he keep blowing my Oregon defenders?

  27. phuonglili said

    Congratulation! both of your blog, and this post are high ranked in
    “The top blogs of the day” report

  28. Longball said

    Are we being spammed? who is this Phuonglili?

  29. Jo-Jo said

    I’m confused right now.

  30. Longball said

    well, we’ve hit that wall again. Lets hope we shake it off quick.

  31. Jo-Jo said

    yeah, totally spammed. Too bad internet spam doesn’t taste as good as the canned stuff.

  32. Nuss said

    Defense, defense, defense. C’mon. Keep ’em in front.

  33. Jo-Jo said

    Must maintain defensive pressure to sustain offensive lulls.

  34. Longball said

    We are one run away from putting these guys away. To be successful in the tourney we have to be able to put together late runs.

  35. Longball said

    Wow, we need Harm to hit something.

  36. Nuss said

    Harmeling is straight up killing us.

  37. Jo-Jo said

    Maybe he should just hit someone.

  38. Nuss said

    That’s good defense. That’s a terrible call.

  39. Jo-Jo said

    Offensive foul on Hairston. I hate it when they don’t call the hook.

  40. Longball said

    I hate this part of the game where our body language is like we are up by 20 and the other team is scrapping furiously.

  41. Nuss said

    Tough when a team is just shooting the lights out. Trading three for two will get you back in a game in a hurry. I’m just not sure it’s sustainable.

  42. Longball said

    Wow, what the hell is our problem dealing with a huge 2nd half lead? do we all get messages and smoke a bowl at haltime if we are up by more than 10?

  43. Jo-Jo said

    Cowgill is the flippin’ man!

  44. Longball said

    I gotta say, great showing of Coug fans in LA.

  45. Jo-Jo said

    I hate this.

  46. Jo-Jo said

    wouldn’t the body by Porter be called before the offensive on Weav there?

  47. Longball said

    seriously, no lead is ever safe for us. which is kinda rediculous given our style of play.

  48. Jo-Jo said

    Ernie has to poop.

  49. Longball said

    am i the only one who doesnt like having Nic in at this point?

  50. Jo-Jo said

    Two minutes; get Nico off the floor!

  51. Jo-Jo said

    Can we hit free throws late?

  52. Jo-Jo said

    I hate that kid.

  53. Longball said

    Good grief, TP.

  54. Longball said

    Burn the whole clock and score, COugs!!!

  55. Jo-Jo said

    Intentional foul, dammit! shots and the ball!

  56. Nuss said

    My head is going to explode if we don’t close this game out.

  57. Jo-Jo said

    Very smart having Nico make the inbound pass. But why is he in the game?

  58. Jo-Jo said

    who are we rooting for in the next game?

  59. Longball said

    Whew! I want another shot at Stanford more than Zona. But either way the next round will be TOUGH.

  60. Longball said

    I hope we all took our heart meds today! So have ASU and U of O’s bubbles popped? Does Zona have to win to be in?

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