Dana Altman recognized the Oregon Ducks’ reality before it hosted Arizona State Thursday night in a pivotal game both teams needed to move back into the bubble conversation for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.
“Now we’ve got no excuses,” Altman said in a pregame radio interview, during which he acknowledged that having 11 of 12 scholarship players available for the first time this season meant the Ducks could no longer use injuries as a reason for poor performances .
Yet Oregon’s healthiest roster of the season suffered one of the largest margins of defeat at Matthew Knight Arena in Altman’s 13 seasons in Eugene, enduring an embarrassing 90-73 loss before a lethargic crowd of 5,955 Thursday night.
“It was a really bad start to the game,” Altman said. “They got whatever they wanted, (including) their confidence. … We got beat in every facet of the game. Really disappointed, obviously. I know our fans are. They should be. That is not what you expect from our ball team and our program. Very concerning.”
Will Richardson scored 16 points and N’Faly Dante added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Ducks (9-8, 3-3 Pac-12), who trailed by as much as 29 in the second half. It’s the largest margin of defeat at home for Oregon since Jan. 8, 2015 — when it lost 80-62 to Arizona — and is tied for the third-largest at home in the Altman era.
Desmond Cambridge Jr. scored 21 points to lead four players in double-figures for the Sun Devils (14-3, 5-1), who shot 44.8% from three-point range — more than twice their average (21.5%) in league play
After a back-and-forth opening few minutes, Arizona State erupted for a 30-8 run to take control. The Sun Devils led 46-29 at the end of the first half, making 19 of 34 shots from the field, including 8 of 17 from three-point range, while accumulating 11 assists on an array of highlight-reel plays.
“We didn’t contest shots inside,” Altman said. “We obviously didn’t contest shots on the perimeter to start the game, did a little better as the game went on, but they got off to such a good start they got into a rhythm. We allowed that to happen.”
Aside from three consecutive three-pointers by Richardson in the first half and an 11-0 UO run in the second when ASU’s starters were on the bench, the home crowd had nothing to cheer for.
Another blowout loss, albeit in Quadrant 2, will drop Oregon from 65 in NET and make the climb toward postseason consideration the least of its problems with No. 9 Arizona (14-2, 3-2) coming to town on Saturday.
Altman did everything to avoid calling out players by name, but said that changes to the lineup and playing time would be coming.
“We’re going to have to change things up and really make some guys more accountable for their minutes,” he said. “We’re going to shake some things up, give some guys some opportunities and cut the minutes of some guys that we’ve been giving a lot of opportunities to. And I don’t know if that’ll work. If I thought they were better going into the game, I’d have played them, but (we) can’t keep doing the same thing.”
Starters Rivaldo Soares and Brennan Rigsby both went scoreless in the first half. Quincy Guerrier scored all of his four points in a short spurt in the first half and recorded a team-low minus-27 in 21 minutes.
Centers Nate Bittle and Kel’el Ware scored all 10 of their points and recorded six of their seven combined rebounds in the second half. Most came with Arizona State’s starters on the bench. Altman acknowledged there’s no scenario in which Oregon can win with the two former five-star recruits combining to go scoreless with one rebound in a half, as they did in a combined 5 minutes, 12 seconds during the first half Thursday.
“We’ve got to play a lot better,” Altman said. “There’s a lot of scenarios, but I thought Nate did play hard in the second half. Kel’el, if he hits a shot he’s in pretty good shape, but he goes 1 for 5. We’re going to need the whole team. We’ve got some depth.
“If I had the answer, obviously we’d go that way. But we’ll be up all night trying to figure it out as a coaching staff. We’ll practice tomorrow and 3 o’clock on Saturday we need to see a different team.”
Keeshawn Barthelemy had seven points in 12 minutes off the bench for Oregon in his first minutes since Nov. 20.
“He did some good things the second half,” Altman said. “First helped he was a little out of sorts, but got his legs under him a little bit in the second half.”
DJ Horne scored 15 points, all on three-pointers, for the Sun Devils, who improved to 3-1 in what is a Quadrant 1 game for the time being. Devan Cambridge (14 points, five rebounds) and Warren Washington (10 points, eight rebounds) also scored in double-figures for Arizona State, which shot 52.4% from the field and earned its largest margin of victory in a conference game this season.