Oregon comes to town this week with something to prove.
The Ducks have been through a tumultuous season. That continued last week, when 19-year-old Damyean Dotson sat out the Washington State game after being cited for using a fake ID in a bar. He will play against UCLA on Thursday.
Earlier this season, guard Dominic Artis and forward Ben Carter were suspended nine games for selling team apparel that had been provided by the university.
Oregon started the season 12-0 and was ranked 10th at the start of Pac-12 play. A five-game conference losing streak took the Ducks out of the title chase.
“Those two-point losses really affected our team,” Coach Dana Altman said. “It put us behind. We have been talking to the guys about what we need to do. It comes down to a four-game season for us. UCLA is that first opportunity.”
Oregon (18-8 overall, 6-8 in Pac-12 play) beat UCLA (21-6, 10-4) at Pauley Pavilion last season.
“Things like that always help,” Altman said.
Altman said that the lineup shuffles, caused first by the Artis-Carter suspensions and then by Dotson’s incident, have had little to do with the Ducks struggles this season. Though he did note that having everyone back is tricky.
“Trying to play a lot guys sometimes can be a problem,” Altman said.
But the main issue, he said, was “we haven’t found a flow defensively.”
The Ducks allow 74.3 points, ranking them ninth in the Pac-12.
“Our talking on defense, getting five guys to play as a group, is always important,” Altman said. “We haven’t handled the end of games well at all. That’s mostly my fault, but it is also a communication thing between players.”