Oregon, after losing on a last second shot against Cal, put together a convincing 77-66 win against Stanford, avenging their January 30th road loss to the Cardinal and giving head coach Dana Altman his 600th career victory. The Ducks shot 48 percent from the field and out rebounded the Cardinal 35-33. Point guard Johnathan Loyd led the Ducks in, assists, minutes and poise.
“It’s good for us,” Tony Woods said of getting production from the point guard position. “It’s good for all of us because it gets us going as well. Johnny is a leader every night and he stepped up for us tonight and it was good for us as a team.”
With freshman point guard Dominic Artis out with a foot injury, the Ducks have struggled to find production at the point guard position. Loyd is a strong defensive player, but struggles on offense, averaging a meager 3.4 points and 2.6 assists per game, playing just 21 minutes despite the Ducks having no other real option at point guard. Freshman Willie Moore can come in for brief stints (7.8 minutes per game), but generally if Loyd its out, the team has no true point guard on the floor.
Saturday, Loyd led that more closely resembled the Artis led Ducks from the start of the season rather than the team that put together a three game losing streak. He put up 15 points and 9 assists with three steals while playing 37 minutes, only turning the ball over once. The 15 points are a season high while the nine assists are a career high.
“It felt great,” Loyd said. “I need (a good game). My teammates have been putting faith in me, telling me they believe in me and trust me, and that I can do it, so I just stepped up.”
Generally, teams sag off of Loyd on defense due to his poor shooting. This allows them to basically play four on five and clog the paint, hindering Oregon’s post players and often bringing Oregon’s offense as a whole to a sputter. All too often, the Ducks find themselves taking ill-advised shots late in the shot clock, leading to inefficiency.
“He hit a couple jumpers and they had to guard him,” Altman said. “The two games where Johnny has hit shots, Washington and tonight, we had double figure wins in both those games. When they aren’t able to clog (the paint) up because he is being aggressive and making shots, it makes a big difference.”
With seven first half points from Loyd, the Cardinal were forced to respect Loyds jump shot. Defenders started crowding him, opening up passing lanes. Loyd quickly took advantage of this, setting up players in the paint or, often in the second half, opting to drive the ball for easy lay ups. In the closing minutes, Stanford was actually double teaming Loyd and trying to trap him at mid court. Prior to Saturday’s game, that was unthinkable.
Oregon’s drop in production without Artis has been glaringly obvious. Once a top ten team, the Ducks now look like they could fall to the middle of the Pac-12. Artis’ numbers were far from gaudy, 12.2 points and 3.8 assists, but he gave Oregon what they needed to win games. With Artis’ injury seemingly having no time table, solid production from Loyd is vital.
The Ducks, now tied with Arizona for lead in the Pac-12, don’t need Loyd to replicate Saturdays production each game to contend for the conference title and make a tournament run, but they do need him to improve on his season averages if they want to make noise come March. With solid point guard play, the Ducks can be a very dangerous team.