Wednesday provided surprise redemption, both in the Ducks' unprecedented victory over the Huskies and their unexpected hero.
Oregon beat their rival Huskies 65-52, to improve to 9-3 in Pac-12 and 20-5 overall. The victory in Seattle was just their second there since 2000, the other occurring in the final year of the Ernie Kent era in 2009.
After dropping two games in the Bay Area, Seattle provided the first road game. The Ducks, whose only conference road losses came in that series, made the most of their time in Seattle picking up a much-needed win.
Since being forced into the starting role, point guard Johnathan Loyd has taken criticism for his inability to hit shots. In his five previous starts, Loyd was an abysmal 6-28, including a 0-7 performance in last week’s loss to Colorado.
The diminutive ball-handler played 12 first half minutes without a shot, before exploding for 11 in the second on 4-for-7 shooting. Nine of his 11 came in the final 6:50 of the game, none bigger than a corner three-pointer that pushed the Ducks lead to 11.
“I feel like that [corner three point shot] just got me started; just wide-open side of the basket. It felt good when it left my hand,” he said.
“I’m just so happy for him to get some shots tonight. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. He wants to help the team so bad…to have him hit those shots tonight was big for him,” said head coach Dana Altman.
Loyd left the game in the closing minutes after colliding with two Washington players while jumping for a pass. Following the game Loyd said it was a hyper-extended left knee, which was initially cause for concern because he’d missed two months his junior year in high school with a similar injury. But he didn’t believe this injury was as “severe”.
“I think I’ll be fine. I don’t think I’ll miss any games or anything like that,” he said.
While Loyd was surprisingly effective offensively for Oregon, it was Washington leading scorers C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs who were equally ineffective for the Huskies. Washington’s leading scorers shot a combined 4-for-19 from the field, scoring just 13 points, 12 shy of their average 29 collective points per game.
“What we know from their team is that Wilcox and Suggs are their two best players,” said forward Arsalan Kazemi, who tallied 11 points and seven rebounds. “We were kind of focusing on those two players. So, we just tried to keep them from scoring.”
The affect of forcing Wilcox and Suggs out of their comfort zone, was a season-low 52 points for the Huskies and a porous 35-percent shooting from the field.
“At the end of the day, if we play good defense, we’re going to be in position to win games,” Loyd said.
The Ducks had been in similarly good positions in the closing minutes of defensive-minded losses to California and Colorado, before poor offensive execution kept the Ducks from holding on. That hiccup didn’t repeat itself Wednesday, as the Ducks committed just one second-half turnover.
Oregon was balanced as per usual with Damyean Dotson and Carlos Emory joining Loyd and Kazemi in double figures with 13 and 10 respectively. E.J. Singler finished with nine points, all in the first half.