Oregon experienced its first loss Saturday in Las Vegas against the Cincinnati Bearcats. While the loss stung, Oregon’s younger players got to experience a true road environment and stiff competition against the likes of Cincinnati and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. They went 1-1 in Vegas, which helped them believe in their capabilities to make a deep run and possibly make the NCAA tournament.
“We know that we can play (tournament teams),” junior guard Johnathan Loyd said. “We aren’t far away because we beat UNLV. We lost to Cincinnati, but it was a good game so we know that in order to play into the tournament these are the types of teams we will be playing against. To know that we can compete and get wins against them is good for confidence.”
Freshman Damyean Dotson had a bit of a coming-out party against UNLV when he scored four points in the final 19 seconds. Dotson finished with a season-high 19 points while Vegas-native Ben Carter had 12 points and five rebounds and Dominic Artis scored 11. All three are true freshman. Inexperienced players stepping up at the end of games, especially on the road, is huge for a team as young as the Ducks.
“I knew from the get-go that they were going to contribute a lot this year just from playing pickup with them, playing them in practice and just their history,” Loyd said of the freshman. “I knew they were going to be able to contribute right away, so to see them do that wasn’t a surprise for me. (Dotson) grew up that day. We were joking that he’s no longer a freshman after that because he carried us down the stretch.”
Loyd wasn’t the only one impressed with the Ducks’ play on the road. Although Oregon lost one of the games, its coach Dana Altman believes that the team is on the right path and has a lot that they can take away from the weekend in Las Vegas.
“We made some progress,” Altman said. “We really had some guys step up and play with Tony (Woods) in foul trouble all weekend. E.J. (Singler) had some foul trouble in the first game so we really had some guys step up. I thought our freshmen really did a nice job, I thought Arsalan (Kazemi), in the second game in particular, really kept us in the game with his rebounding. All in all, I thought we made progress. It wasn’t what we wanted, we went down there with the idea of winning two games and we came up short but we did make progress and a step in the right direction.”
Currently sitting at 5-1, Oregon looks like they will be able to make some noise in the conference this year if their young talent continues to contribute, especially with a win over a UNLV team with top-tier talent such as Anthony Bennett.
Oregon’s next game is Thursday night against Texas-San Antonio at Matthew Knight Arena at 7 p.m.