The Washington Huskies had a winning streak. Now they have lost two games in a row. They need to keep this slump from becoming a losing streak. That will be the message that head coach Lorenzo Romar gives to his team as they prepare to face the Oregon Ducks in Eugene late Saturday afternoon.
Once upon a time (a week ago) the Huskies and the Ducks were undefeated in league play and tied for second in the conference. Since then, the Ducks have beaten UCLA in Los Angeles and Washington State in Eugene. Meanwhile the Huskies were giving aid and comfort to Utah and Oregon State. The result? The Ducks are atop the Pac-12 and Washington is tied for 4th in league and in a must win situation if they want a say in the regular season conference race.
When the Huskies are good they play tough defense and get out in transition. They find leading scorer C.J. Wilcox on the wing and he scores from deep or slashes to the hoop. Should Wilcox miss, stalwart rebounder Aziz N'Diaye is there for the put back and all is well.
When the Huskies are not good they give up 74 points apiece to Utah and Oregon State, two teams who had struggled to score, much less win, before the Huskies came along. Washington's half court attack has been inconsistent and no one has been accountable on the glass except for N'Diaye.
In contrast, Oregon is a team on the rise. Undefeated in conference play, and having not lost a game in regulation since November, the Ducks have been seeing a new hero every night. Their most consistent player is senior forward E.J. Singler, averaging 10.8 points a game and five boards per outing. Singler was the hero of the come from behind win against Washington State Wednesday night.
When it isn't Singler it may be freshman guard Damyean Dotson (leading the Ducks at 11.9 ppg), senior center Tony Woods (11.1 ppg), or senior forward Arsalan Kazemi crashing the boards at a 9.5 rebound per game clip. No matter who's name is on the back of the jersey, Oregon head coach Dana Altman has been able to find the answer each and every conference game.
One surprising thing that may be to Washington's advantage is shiny new Matthew Knight Arena. The new facility replaced venerable MacArthur Court but has yet to match "The Pit" in either noise or crowd intensity. The Ducks hope that a rivalry game, played in the afternoon on a Saturday, will draw the people who will bring the noise.
Las Vegas has the Ducks listed as an 8 1/2 point pick. That's a lot of points in a game between two teams in the top half of the conference, but until the Huskies right their ship we have to bet the other way. Take Oregon and spend your winnings on some class and culture at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.