by Rob Moseley
If the last eight days have been a slog for the Oregon men's basketball team, the next six could feel like an eternity.
On the heels of another defense-optional loss Sunday, 82-80 to Stanford at Matthew Knight Arena, the Ducks will go almost a week before playing in Corvallis next Sunday.
Oregon's 13-0 start is a distant memory after three straight losses, and the team's No. 17 ranking will be by the time they face the Beavers. Between now and then, the Ducks figure to face as intense a midseason practice week as one could imagine.
"We've got to regroup," UO coach Dana Altman said. "After having a pretty good six-week stretch, we've had an awful eight days here. ...
"It'll be a long week; it'll be a tough week. Our character will be tested. Our resolve will be tested."
In starting 13-0, the Ducks showed a margin for error that was slim, but came out ahead time and again. They beat Georgetown by seven, and needed overtime for wins over Mississippi, BYU and Utah.
Now deep in the heart of Pac-12 play, the margin remains slim. But over the last eight days, the Ducks are coming out on the other side.
Sunday, Oregon's 11 first-half turnovers — and Stanford's five offensive rebounds to the Ducks' one — resulted in 13 extra possessions. Instead of enjoying a comfortable lead after outshooting the Cardinal .556 to .455, Oregon trailed at halftime, 41-37.
The Stanford lead bounced around between one and nine throughout the second half, but the Ducks never could completely close the gap. Several missed free throws by the Cardinal gave Oregon two shots to force overtime in the final 10 seconds, but Johnathan Loyd missed a pull-up jumper, and Dominic Artis couldn't finish a layin just before the buzzer.
"Everybody's frustrated; nobody likes to lose," UO senior Jason Calliste said. "We know what we have to do: just get back in the lab and work."
The "lab" in this case would be the Matt Arena practice gyms, and also the arena floor itself, in the six days prior to the OSU trip.
"This next week's going to be about going at each other, trying to get better," said Mike Moser, who led the Ducks with 24 points Sunday. "We're obviously not where we want to be."
To the Ducks' credit, they didn't sugarcoat their disappointment Sunday. They know who they are — a team that can score with anybody but which lacks a real defensive stopper, particularly at the rim.
Stanford finished Sunday's game shooting .526, and it's not a coincidence the three teams to beat Oregon have been the three to shoot better than .500. In the next six days, Altman will try to find a way to better hide the Ducks' deficiency in the post.
"We're still a good basketball team; we're a good offensive team," Altman said. "But our defense and rebounding, we've got to put our guys in different positions. I'm not sure what the answer is; we've got a lot of work ahead to get better. …
"Absolutely we're having trouble inside. Teams are getting to the rim, and now we're playing Oregon State, which is maybe the biggest team of all. Yeah, it's a concern. How we try to adjust to that remains to be seen."
Altman was adamant about not excusing the Ducks for their lack of an intimidating post presence. Elgin Cook's monster block to set up Artis' three-pointer that made it 81-80 with 23 seconds left was authoritative, but a 6-foot-6 forward like Cook can't be expected to defend the basket in that manner possession after possession.
Rather, it'll take a team effort, and better than any the Ducks put forth in their losses to Colorado, Cal and Stanford.
"We'll probably go back to some fundmental stuff, to be honest," Moser said, anticipating the week ahead. "We're just off — communication, guys not where they're supposed to be. Our offensive numbers are pretty consistent. The lapse right now is just defensively."
Following the trip to Corvallis, Oregon remains on the road to face Washington and WSU. What at one point looked like a magical season now will be determined in no small part by what happens in those three road games.
"It's going to make or break us," Moser said. "After losing three straight, we're desperate right now."
Before the road trip, though, is a six-day crucible for the Ducks to endure, and get themselves back on the right track.
NOTES: Artis missed with one second left as Stanford survived a wild finish to win its first Pac-12 game. … Moser scored his team-high 24 points on 8-of-14 FG shooting. He has led the Ducks in scoring in five games, has reached double-figures in 12 games and has scored 20-plus points on four occasions. … Damyean Dotson scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Dotson has reached double-figures in 12 of the past 13 contests. … Oregon made a season-best 12 three-pointers, going 12-of-22 (.545) from behind the arc. … The Ducks were defeated for the first time wearing their yellow uniforms (7-1). … Calliste scored 12 points, reaching double-figure scoring for the ninth time this season.