Record: 11-6, (2-2)
VS ASU last year: 2-0
NET Ranking: 74
Points scored: 73.4 (194 of 353)
Points allowed: 64.8 (35 of 353)
It’s been quite the difficult season for the Ducks. A team that has been decimated by injuries to star freshmen Bol Bol and Louis King, they’ve struggled throughout much of the early season.
However, a calling card of head coach Dana Altman is that his teams tend to flip the switch and play their best basketball as the season nears the end. Following a brutal home loss to UCLA in which Oregon led by nine with under a minute to go, the Ducks have won back-to-back impressive games including against Arizona in Tucson.
A key boost was the return of sophomore forward Kenny Wooten, who had been previously sidelined with a broken jaw. Wooten does a little bit of everything for Oregon, but is primarily known for his athleticism which leads to lock down defense.
That was exactly was Oregon was able to do to UA Thursday night. In a rare home loss at the McKale Center, the Wildcats shot a lowly 37 percent from the field and were held to 54 points in the game. It was a huge win for Oregon, and keeps their season alive at the moment.
As they now begin their trek north to Tempe, expect the Ducks to keep that same brand of defense when they play at Wells Fargo. With two teams facing off that can go through offensive struggles, there’s a strong likelihood of a low-scoring physical game Saturday night.
For ASU, they have to feel confident about their defensive effort in their win over Oregon State in which they dominated the Beavers for the majority of the game. It will be important for the Sun Devils to limit the Ducks’ three-point shooting after a nice performance from deep in Tucson.
Redshirt senior forward Paul White led all scorers with 16 points and was 2-of-3 from deep, and sophomore guard Victor Bailey Jr. contributed 13 points of his own going 3-of-5 from three point land.
Another advantage for Arizona State is if Oregon is feeling confident in their zone defense and try to employ it against the Sun Devils. It worked masterfully against Arizona, due to their historically poor shooting night, but ASU has shown that they can beat a zone better than more man-to-man defense.
Senior forward Zylan Cheatham stood out in a big way against Oregon State, scoring 10 points to go along with 13 rebounds and six assists. Cheatham’s embraced the roll of doing whatever the team needs any given game due to his wide-ranging skill set.
Saturday night, expect Cheatham to be shadowing his fellow senior White while also likely being guarded by a shut down defender in Wooten.
Altman used Wooten off the bench against Arizona, but he still managed to play 25 minutes including the majority of crunch time.
Using a full face guard to protect his jaw, he didn’t appear too bothered by the gear and could be even more comfortable trying to will his team to a road sweep and keeping their postseason aspirations alive.
For the Sun Devils, despite the early struggles a home sweep against two good opponents would do a lot to alleviate the uncertainness surrounding this team.