by Rob Moseley
CORVALLIS — A 40-minute basketball game never comes down to a single possession, but if it did ...
There was Oregon guard Damyean Dotson streaking down the wing after an Oregon State turnover late in the second half Sunday at Gill Coliseum. Score, and the Ducks would be within three points of the Beavers, for the first time since the game was 10 possessions old.
On a night when the Ducks didn't capitalize enough on OSU errors, and got unusually poor production from their perimeter players, Dotson's breakaway was destined not to be. He never really got the handle and watched the ball roll out of bounds.
At the other end, OSU's Roberto Nelson converted a backdoor dunk — the play highlighted most brightly in Oregon's pregame defensive scouting report. Soon enough Oregon State had iced an 80-72 Civil War victory.
The loss was the fourth straight for Oregon, following a 13-0 start to the season. More troubling was that, on a night when the Ducks at times seemed to be showing some improvement on the defensive end, their vaunted guard-heavy lineup was largely held in check.
"We're not doing the little things," UO senior guard Johnathan Loyd said. "We kind of got away with it for awhile (early in the season), but we're not rebounding the ball, we're not paying attention to tendencies and we're letting people do what they want to do, instead of dictating.
"There's just things we've got to fix."
In some respects, Oregon never gave itself a chance Sunday. The Ducks' largest — and only — lead was at 2-0, but OSU quickly led 10-3, and then 22-9, and then 30-14, the biggest of the game.
Oregon fought within single digits by halftime, 37-30, and had that chance to close within three on Dotson's breakaway. But those moments were fleeting.
If you're looking for silver linings, Ben Carter had his most encouraging night of the season with 11 points, and Richard Amardi provided 13 off the bench (former starting post Waverly Austin didn't play). But a "small" starting lineup that for the first time included Elgin Cook managed just 25 of the Ducks' 72 points, and contributed to a 4-of-19 three-point shooting effort.
"We started off with a couple tough shots, and it's tough to get going after that," Loyd said. "We've got to work on penetrating, kicking — we only had six assists, so we want to work on making plays for each other. Offensively we didn't play very well; period, we didn't play very well at all."
So what's next for the Ducks? The schedule shows a road trip north to face Washington on Thursday, and then WSU on Sunday. As to what we can expect from the Ducks, that's tough to answer at this point.
Loyd said Altman told the Ducks they won't review film of Sunday's loss, and that postgame comments from the coach were generally an attempt to lift the team's spirits.
"Everybody's really down," Altman said. "We've really struggled. These last two weeks have been tough on all of us. So there's no reason to pile on.
"Offensively, the first half we had a bunch of guys just trying to do it on their own. ... Second half, offensively we played better, but our ball movement still wasn't the same and we just didn't shoot it well."
And so, it's gut-check time for Altman and his team. This is the first four-game losing streak for Oregon since Altman's first year, in 2010-11, when the Ducks lost at home to Cal and Stanford, then at ASU and Arizona.
That team recovered to win five of its next six, in the conference tournament and the College Basketball Invitational tournament. This one has a chance to get back on track much earlier in the year.
"We've got a bunch of fighters in there," Loyd said. "We're going to bounce back. ...
"Each loss it gets tougher and tougher to get out of this hole we're digging. We're just trying to put it behind us and keep moving forward."
In keeping with his uplifting comments to the team in the locker room, Altman had the same message for media.
"I've got a lot of faith of the character in that room," Altman said. "I think we'll bounce back."
The first chance is Thursday in Seattle, and the Ducks probably can't afford to wait any longer than that.