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Ducks turn focus to Huskies

(The Register-Guard) — Johnathan Loyd has a feeling that Oregon has a strong finish ahead.

"It was important for us to bounce back and start this little run off that we are going to go on," the senior point guard said after the Ducks beat Oregon State 93-83 Sunday afternoon at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon has been pointing to the final stretch of the regular season with five of seven games at home as a chance to move up the Pac-12 Conference standings and improve its NCAA Tournament hopes. The win over the Beavers was a good start, but coach Dana Altman warned against looking too far ahead.

"The only run (Loyd) should be worried about is Washington on Wednesday night," Altman said. "Runs don't happen if you are thinking long term. We have a big week with Washington and Washington State coming up here. We have to play really good so I hope all they are thinking about is Wednesday night."

The Pac-12 dealt Oregon another quirky schedule this week with two days off after the Civil War before Washington visits, and then three days off before playing Washington State at home Sunday night.

It forced Oregon to have a rare practice on the day after a game Monday before taking Thursday as its day off this week.

Washington will have about 24 more hours between games than Oregon after losing at home to California on Saturday.

Oregon (16-8, 4-8) remains 10th in the Pac-12 with six games to go. It has beaten two of the teams left on its schedule and lost to the other four by a total of 10 points.

The Ducks have lost eight of their last 11 games and likely need to win the rest of their games to have a chance at an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament, although 5-1 down the stretch with two wins in games against UCLA, Arizona State or Arizona could put them on the bubble.

Then there's the conference tournament, with six teams currently expected to make the NCAA Tournament.

"If you look at the schedule, we have plenty of opportunities against people who they say are (in the NCAA Tournament), so we are going to have our opportunities," Altman said. "But again, the only thing we should be worried about is Washington.

"I'm not smart enough and the players aren't experienced enough to worry about anything other than Washington."

Oregon lost 80-76 at Washington last month in the game following its 80-72 loss at Oregon State.

Altman is counting on his six seniors to lead Oregon's final push.

"We've got seniors and it's the last month, so there has to be a sense of urgency," he said. "We've got a lot of work to do here in six games. ... The schedule did not do us any favors early, but now we have four of six at home, so we have to take advantage of that."

Oregon has two days of practice before Washington and then two days of practice before facing the Cougars.

"We have played these guys before, so there is not much we can practice on," Loyd said. "Just our will, put our will on them. Speed up the game, press them and take away their strengths. If we do that we will be fine. It is not so much preparation because we already know what we have to do."

Oregon has gotten a boost lately from 6-foot-11 senior Waverly Austin, who started the first 11 games of the season but was used sparingly in the middle of the year. He started against OSU and has played 28 minutes in the last two games against the Beavers and Arizona State, totaling four points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.

"I thought he played good," Altman said. "He gave us what he was supposed to give us, some defensive presence. In 15 minutes against Arizona State, he did exactly what I asked him to do, go out and bang and he got six defensive rebounds.

"He has struggled, he wanted to have a better year, but I told him, we can't change that. All you can change is the finish here."

The finish is what all the Ducks are focused on now.


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