EUGENE, Ore.-On Feb. 7 Oregon dropped its third consecutive game, a home loss to Colorado by a single point. The loss, which was third out of four the Ducks had lost to the Buffaloes by a single point, was disappointing not just because of the outcome, but because of what led them to it.
The Ducks led the entirety of the game until an Andre Roberson rebound basket gave Colorado a lead with 23 seconds left. Oregon failed to score on the subsequent possession and the Buffaloes escaped Eugene with a victory.
Not only had Roberson’s basket given Colorado their first lead of the game, but the Ducks had held a seven point advantage with 4:29 to play, before failing to score for the remainder of the game. The Ducks turned it over three times and missed three shots in that stretch.
“We feel like we gave one away to Colorado when they played here. We’re just going to get it back,” said Arsalan Kazemi of Oregon’s upcoming game with the Buffaloes.
For Kazemi, the loss hurt on a personal level, as the star forward who prides himself on his rebounding, gave up three put backs in that span that made the difference.
“When we talk about the Colorado game, those last two possessions are stuck in my mind. I’m not going to let it happen this time,” Kazemi said.
So, when the Ducks take on the Buffaloes on Thursday night, it won’t just be the conference race at stake, where the Ducks and UCLA Bruins hold a tie going into the final weekend, it will be a developing rivalry between two teams who desperately need to win.
“The last [three of four] have gone down to the wire,” said head coach Dana Altman. “We’ve been on the short end of them. So we’ve got to turn that around.”
Doing so will be difficult. Colorado seemingly has Oregon’s number, winning three of four, but adding difficulty to the situation is the Buffaloes’ success rate at the Coors Event Center. This season, they’ve lost just twice there, to UCLA and Arizona State. Both losses came by three points or less, the loss to the Sun Devils coming in overtime.
It will be Kazemi’s job to defend against a repeat performance on the glass, as he draws the difficult match-up of tangling with Roberson, the nation’s leading rebounder, in the post. In the earlier loss, Roberson was instrumental in the Buffs’ effort, finishing with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
“He’s a good rebounder. I just have to box him out. I think I can do some stuff to stop him from going to the offensive boards,” he said. ”He’s a rebounder. I’m a rebounder. So, we’re just going to go at it. That’s all I can say.”
As it has been for the last six weeks, the health of backcourt players is of the upmost importance. But, unlike the first nine games when Dominic Artis was held out with a foot injury, the number of players of concern has pluralized.
Artis made his comeback in a win over Oregon State last Thursday, playing 12 minutes and hitting two key three point field goals. Altman anticipates the number of minutes to increase this weekend. But in doubt now are starting guards Damyean Dotson and Johnathan Loyd.
While Altman believes both should be good to play by Thursday, both have missed practice time recently. Dotson suffered a hip injury after a hard landing in the Civil War and Loyd missed Tuesday’s practices with the flu.