by Rob Moseley
Entering their second and final exhibition game, Saturday afternoon against Point Loma, the Oregon men's basketball team didn't seem ready to play. The first half of the game, then, went about as expected.
The Ducks were a step slow on defense, giving up five three-pointers in the first 20 minutes. They were sloppy on their own end, shooting 35.3 percent prior to halftime.
Talent — and better execution in the second half — ultimately won out, and Oregon escaped with a 68-52 victory. But the Ducks' quiet demeanor and stern faces told the story as they entered the locker room postgame.
"We played terrible," Loyd said once the Ducks emerged. "Coach bit us a little bit in the locker room."
Oregon played Saturday without projected starters Mike Moser and Damyean Dotson, plus reserve wing Jalil Abdul-Bassit, all due to minor injuries. Dotson and Moser are two of the team's "energy guys," Altman said, and their leadership was missed.
In the halftime locker room, players and coaches alike voiced their displeasure with the 37-35 deficit to the Sea Lions. The Ducks started clicking better on the defensive end, holding Point Loma to 17.2 percent shooting in the second half.
Their own offense never get going, however; Altman said too many guys were trying to create their own shots, resulting in a 36.5 percentage for the game. If the Ducks needed a lesson on running their offense, rather than improvising, they got it.
"Coach is always telling us," Loyd said. "But I guess we needed to see it for ourselves."
Though the senior Moser and the returning starter Dotson were out, the Ducks still had vets to turn to — in a game they never figured they'd need to, albeit. Young made up for overaggressiveness on the defensive end in the first half — he was overcommitting in passing lanes — by scoring 15 points, 10 more than any teammate.
And senior center Waverly Austin, whose erratic play in practices has been a microcosm of the Ducks' preseason so far, put it together with 16 points and 12 rebounds. The offensive production might have been expected due to his size advantage, but the rebounds were a welcome sight for a UO team looking to overcome the absence of Arsalan Kazemi.
"We've got to have somebody going to get the ball," Altman said.
Added Loyd: "He's very important, to hold down the middle and be the anchor. We're going to depend on him a lot this year."
As is becoming increasingly evident, the Ducks will rely on Young, too. The Houston transfer and senior Jason Calliste each scored 20 in the opener; Calliste opened Saturday's game with a three-pointer but finished with eight points, while Young hit for 21.
"I was just knocking down shots that were open," Young said. "But the main focus is, I need to pick it up on defense."
Altman said after the game he anticipates Moser, Dotson and Abdul-Bassit being ready to go in Friday's regular season opener, against Georgetown in South Korea. A bigger need might be in the next couple of practices, as the Ducks look to establish some chemistry on both ends prior to the game.
"It's a new group," Altman said. "We're going to go through some ups and downs with them. We recognize that."
But the newness of the roster, and the absences Saturday, weren't being used as excuses.
"Stuff happens during the season," Loyd said. "People get hurt, people can't play. You've got to run with what you've got. We're all D-I basketball players, we all can play the game. We've got to step up."
That's the lesson to take from Saturday's close call to an overmatched opponent.
"This is a learning game," Young said. "Us being a new team, this helps a lot. We can't come out slacking."
"It's not that they're not working hard," Altman said. "But our attention to detail, our focus, is not what it needs to be. There's not that sense of urgency, to get ready for a big game. Hopefully that changes this week."