Oregon Ducks bring a lot of mileage into key game with USC

LOS ANGELES -- The Oregon Ducks are used to being in control. But that option was cast aside on Thursday after blowing a 19-point lead in their loss to UCLA. Though technically tied before Thursday with Arizona in the Pac-12 standings, the Ducks owned the...

Oregon Ducks bring a lot of mileage into key game with USC

LOS ANGELES -- The Oregon Ducks are used to being in control.

But that option was cast aside on Thursday after blowing a 19-point lead in their loss to UCLA.

Though technically tied before Thursday with Arizona in the Pac-12 standings, the Ducks owned the tiebreaker, meaning that if the Ducks and Wildcats finished even at the end of the year, well, the spoils would go to the team in green.

Thursday changed that.

And now as Oregon prepares to face its third 20-win team in as many games, the Ducks now face a relatively intense situation:

The Wildcats now hold a one-game lead over the Ducks, while the Ducks hold only a one-game lead over UCLA and Cal.

The race has certainly tightened, but Oregon head coach Dana Altman doesn't plan on scoreboard watching.

"We've got to worry about ourselves and hope something happens," Altman said. "We knew we had a lot of season left, and our goal is to do as well as we can in the league and we still have that goal."

The Ducks could have made things easier for themselves on Thursday. Oregon led by 19 points in the first half against the Bruins and still led by 15 points with as little at 14 minutes left to play before the Ducks' offense collapsed and the Bruins mounted their comeback.

During one stretch, UCLA went on a 21-3 run, Oregon missed on 13 of 14 attempts and the biggest remaining hurdle on the Pac-12 schedule went from a blowout to a head-scratcher.

"Everyone talks about how we didn't score much down the stretch, which is true, our execution wasn't very good," Altman said. "But it never would have gotten to that point if we had taken care of the boards. We had our opportunities, we just didn't get it done. It goes back to we had control of the game, but we did not rebound and defend, that was the turning point."

Even more costly for the Ducks could be the mileage logged by their starters. The Ducks looked tired by the end of the contest and Altman agreed, saying the team was gassed. That doesn't help Oregon for Saturday's matchup with 21-4 USC, as the Trojans had a pretty easy task on Thursday in dismantling Oregon State.

While key Oregon players like Dillon Brooks (38 minutes) and Jordan Bell (35) played heavy minutes against the Bruins, not a single Trojans player logged more than 28 minutes in their 92-66 win over the Beavers. 

Chris Boucher (20) and Casey Benson (17) were the only Ducks who played against UCLA who logged less than 28 minutes.

"I have to do a better job distributing minutes and get Chris on the floor more," Altman said. "We did run out of gas against UCLA, so the minutes distribution has to be better."

And this is a different USC team than Oregon faced in Eugene, when the Ducks won 84-61 in December. The Trojans have won five in a row, including an 84-76 win over UCLA. They also have Benny Boatwright back in the fold, who missed Round 1 against the Ducks.

Boatwright missed 15 games earlier in the year with a knee injury, but has averaged 17.3 points in the three games he's played since returning.

At 6-foot-10 and 230 pounds, Boatwright can pound the Ducks inside -- where they struggled against UCLA.

"He gives them a perimeter threat and size on the boards," Altman said. "He's a very good passer."  

Oregon took things light on Friday with just a casual shootaround instead of a full practice. The hope is to get things back on track in time for Oregon's final two home games of the year next week.

"It is not easy, we spent a lot of energy," Altman said. "It will be tough to bounce back, but at 7:30 Saturday, we will be ready."

-- Tyson Alger
talger@oregonian.com
@tysonalger 

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