EUGENE, Ore.- Oregon (21-5, 10-3) basketball received good news Monday night, when the conference decided not to pursue any more punitive action on center Tony Woods. Woods elbowed Washington State center Brock Motum in the back of the head during the first half of Saturday’s win in Pullman.
The elbow followed some jostling as the pair tried to establish post position, followed by a tug on Woods’ elbow from Motum. Despite the retaliation, which was enough to eject Woods, his teammates are happy with the conference’s decision.
“I just found out. I am relieved now, really relieved. We need Tony,” point guard Johnathan Loyd said.
Head coach Dana Altman was asked if any consideration was given to suspend Woods internally, to which Altman responded with a straight “No.” Altman described the 7-footer’s disposition following the game as apologetic.
“He was disappointed in himself. He felt like he let the team down. He handled it well,” Altman said.
“I told him it was not acceptable. There was some stuff that was going on before that, but to retaliate in that matter is not acceptable,” he said.
The conference’s decision shores up one of two major roster question marks for the Ducks, the other being the health of point guard Dominic Artis’ who has missed seven straight games.
Earlier in the day Altman described his freshman point guard as “day-to-day” and said later during his week media availability that the process was a “slow” one, but that he was making progress.
Much like many fans, Artis’ teammates remain curious of that progress, perhaps none more so than Loyd, who has acted as his replacement.
“I’ve been asking him, but I don’t get a straight answer every time. So, I’m just ‘alright bro just me know when you can come back, I’ll hold it down until you can,’” Loyd said.
The Ducks got off to a rocky start with Loyd at the helm, losing three of four to start, but have responded with three straight wins.
Among those losses were a pair of road games to California (16-9, 8-5) and Stanford (15-11, 6-7), which ended what had up to that point been a perfect conference start for the Ducks. With vengeance in mind, the Ducks host a weekend series with the school starting Thursday with the Golden Bears.
If the earlier loss to California more meaningful than most it was because it was the tenth straight loss their rival from northern California, their last win coming in 2007-08, when the Duck started the likes of Bryce Taylor, Malik Hairston and Maarty Leunen.
“It’s a must win game. Like I said last time, I still haven’t beaten Cal. So this one means a little bit more to me and E.J. It’s a game we’ve got to get,” Loyd said.
In Berkley, earlier this month, Oregon led the Bears 54-48 with 4:02 remaining, before California scored the last ten points. The Ducks missed their last six shots, but also turned it over twice, one of which led to a Justin Cobbs three-point play.
“We were in control for the whole game. Like I said, costly turnovers plagued us.
“So we’ve just go to control the ball, control the tempo and just keep playing our good defense and I think we’ll be fine,” Loyd said.
Likely drawing the most difficult defensive matchups will be Loyd and freshman Damyean Dotson, on Cobbs and conference leading scorer Allen Crabbe. Since defeating Oregon, the Bears have won three of four, including wins over second-place UCLA and Arizona.
Crabbe received Pac-12 player of the week in each of the past two weeks for his efforts, including a 31-point explosion at Arizona.
“Anytime you have a guy that is that capable and can just change a game, and he’s done that on us a couple of times, change the game with his three-point shooting. He does present a lot of problems,” Altman said.
Loyd and Dotson defended the California duo well in the first meeting, holding them to a combined 21 points on 9-for-19 shooting. But the affect of guarding such skilled players is admittedly difficult both on-the-court and in mental preparation.
“It’s kind of different to prepare for that, because you know what kind of player he is, and how you’ve got to chase him off the screens and all of that,” Dotson said. “But you’ve just got to come to the game different, with a different mindset. You know you’ve got to stop him because he’s one of the best scorers in the league.”
The Ducks hope just hope the second (or eleventh) time is the charm.
“We just gave the game away down there, so this is something that is a must have. We can’t let anybody get two games on us in one season,” Loyd said.
The Ducks and Bears play Thursday at 6 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena. The game will be televised on ESPNU.