March 22, 2008

Oregon turned its chances into a long shot

Shooting the three ball didn't cost Oregon against Mississippi State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Shooting it as if it was the only option did. Oregon took an unbelievable 38 three-point shots in its 76-69 loss to the Bulldogs in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The Ducks shot an appalling 25% in the second half as they cast up one deep ball after another in a vain attempt to take a seven point deficit and turn it into a one point lead on every possession.

A telling sign in the loss was Tajuan Porter's 5-17 shooting from the field, and no shots coming inside the lane. Bryce Taylor went 2-12 in his final Oregon appearance. The Ducks shot 9-38 from behind the arc. When teams play on a new floor, in a new arena, with site lines and a new background they've never experienced before it often leads to lower jump shooting percentages, and Friday was no different. At one point, the Ducks missed 17 straight low percentage shots in the second half

It looked like all of that was irrelevant and Oregon would get it done after they came out in the first half smoking, and led by as much as 13, (41-28) early in the second half. Per one of the obvious game plans, the Ducks went to Maarty Leunen who stroked 4 of 5 three pointers from behind the arc while the Bulldogs stood in disbelief and didn't come out far enough to distract his shot.

Then the jumpers stopped dropping and back came Mississippi State. Led by Charles Rhodes, who pumped in a career high 34 points, on a dazzling array of three -pointers, low post moves, and good free throw shooting. Rhodes kept them in the game, Oregon's poor second half shooting opened the door, and Barry Stewart and Jamont Gordon took it from there.

Most disappointing was the Ducks' inability to generate any offense, in any other way. With the game still in doubt, the Ducks turned to Malik Hairston in a one-on-one situation. In two possessions Hairston committed an offensive foul, had it stolen, and missed a three-point shot badly.

Not that any of his teammates, or the offensive set were helping him out any. It looked like the Ducks at that point knew only how to set perimeter screens and had abandoned the inside part of their motion offense. Relying solely on jumpers to bring them back. That's usually a bad way to try to come back, and it proved to be one more time in Little Rock.

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