In its first true test of the season, Oregon forgot to actually show up.
Playing in the semifinals of the 2K Empire Classic in Madison Square Garden, the Ducks were beat in all facets on Thursday night, suffering a 77-69 loss to Iowa (3-0). Although they only lost by eight, the Ducks never really factored in the second half.
"We just didn't compete tonight,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We weren't ready to play and that was my fault — very disappointed in myself, in the team."
Senior Ehab Amin led the Ducks (2-1) with 25 points (5-of-8 from deep) while Victor Bailey Jr. added 12 points off the bench.
"A disappointing effort… our ball movement was bad,” Altman said. “We didn't penetrate and look to make shots for our teammates."
Freshman sensation Bol Bol, despite playing well early, didn’t fit the billing, finishing with 14 points, five rebounds and four blocks. His slight stature was often overpowered down low in the post as he never got comfortable or in a rhythm.
Now, Oregon must regroup before facing No. 15 Syracuse (2-1), an 83-76 loser to UConn (3-0), in the consolation game on Friday. Tipoff is set for 1:30 p.m. and will air on ESPN2.
"We didn't play very smart on offense and scored (76) points," Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said following the loss. “We've just got to be better on offense, movement wasn't good — we haven't been good offensively for all the game that we've played and we're trying to work guys out of position… we're not in sync (on) offense at all."
The Ducks got off to a slow start as Iowa came out firing from deep, jumping out to an 8-0 lead within the first three minutes. From there, the lead continued to grow as Oregon had no response for the Hawkeye’s dead-eye shooting.
The Hawkeye’s mixture of man and zone defense confused the Ducks. Too often, Oregon failed to make the extra pass or do something to get a teammate open, seated relying on one-on-one drives and settling for contested attempts late in the shot clock.
"Our ball movement was not good — our transition, we looked over the top a few times and didn't finish and really kind of quit running after that,” Altman said. “Our ball movement was bad… we didn't penetrate and look to make shots for our teammates.”
Oregon cut the deficit down to 28-24 with just under five minutes left, looking like a comeback was in the works. But, an 11-0 Iowa run over the next three minutes ended that as the Ducks went into the break trailing 39-28.
The Ducks picked up their pressure in the second half, contesting a lot more Hawkeye sots and forcing turnovers. But their offensive woes continued as point guard Payton Pritchard, the catalyst of the team, struggled to get the Ducks in a groove.
Pritchard, who shot 1-of-9, began the half by missing four consecutive shots, including two layups, on the first five possessions.
Oregon got respectively close with just under four minutes to go when Paul White hit a layup, making it 63-55 and giving the Ducks the momentum. But the Hawkeyes responded with a three-pointer when they grabbed three offensive rebounds on the possession before the back-breaking shot from beyond the arc.
Apart from Pritchard’s poor shooting, White, the other veteran leader of the team, finished 3-of-13, none more painful than when he rushed an NBA length three-pointer in transition that, if Oregon scored, would’ve helped give it a chance late.
The Ducks must now beat an angry Syracuse team to avoid traveling back to the West coast with a .500 record.