Just in time for a rescheduled visit from Colorado, Oregon made a resounding statement to get back in the Pac-12 Conference conversation.
Ducks head coach Dana Altman owns a well-earned reputation of guiding teams that gradually improve throughout the course of a season. November and December were not particularly kind to the Ducks, but Oregon certainly showed last week it is poised for one of its signature second-half surges.
The Ducks made history by going on the road to win at USC and UCLA, becoming the first Pac-12 team to sweep a pair of top-five opponents on the road. It was the first time a conference team had even swept a pair of top-10 teams on the road, and the two wins pushed Oregon’s NET ranking from No. 91 prior to the two wins to No. 60 on Monday.
Oregon endured a number of head-scratching defeats early this season. Certainly losing to Brigham Young isn’t embarrassing, unless that team loses by 32 in its home state, as the Ducks did against the Cougars in Portland on Nov. 16. Oregon also suffered December losses at Stanford and at home against Arizona State only four days after the Sun Devils managed just 29 points at home against Washington State.
Yet since a hard-fought loss on Dec. 18 against top-ranked Baylor, the Ducks have won four straight. Oregon gets to play its next four games at home, beginning Thursday against Washington State. That run includes the third scheduled attempt at a home date against Colorado on Jan. 25.
“It’s 42 years (in coaching) and I haven’t seen anything like it and man we needed it,” Altman told reporters following a win at then-No. 5 USC on Saturday. “We needed something to jump-start us. Three road wins this week, now we go home. I told the guys that being at home doesn’t do anything for us if we don’t take care (this week).”
Oregon’s big week, which also included a road win in a makeup date at state rival Oregon State, led to Pac-12 player of the week honors for senior guard Will Richardson. Richardson shot an even 50% and averaged 18 points during the three wins, culminating in a career-high 28 points against USC behind a 5-for-8 showing from 3-point range.
The Pac-12 NET rankings beginning Monday, as the home losses by the Los Angeles schools left just one league team in the NET top 20: Arizona (2), UCLA (21), USC (28), Washington State (58), Oregon (60), Colorado (89), Stanford (90), Utah (118), Cal (128), Washington (142), Arizona State (168), Oregon State (206)…Arizona moved up three spots to No. 3 in the latest AP Top 25 released on Monday. UCLA dropped three spots to No. 9 while USC, which suffered losses against Stanford and Oregon, dropped 11 spots to No. 16…For the second time this season, Washington State’s Mouhamed Gueye was named the Pac-12 freshman of the week. Gueye averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds in two games, including posting his second double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds in a loss against Stanford…The 32 points scored by Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis in a win against Utah tied the highest scoring total by a Pac-12 player this year. Washington’s Terrell Brown Jr. also scored 32 points against South Dakota State on Nov. 23. Tubelis’ 14 field goals also was the top total by a Pac-12 player this season.