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Defense is key for the Ducks with string of hugely important games on the schedule

“We’ve gotta guard. God dang it.”

That was the start of Oregon Ducks head coach Dana Altman’s message to the team this week following back-to-back losses to Colorado and Utah. The Ducks allowed an average of 83 points in the two games and their worst defense came down the stretch.

“We’re 1-5 in games we gave up 80 points. Easy baskets,” Altman continued. “We’re just not as committed on the defensive end as we need to be. Kevin gave me some stats: we’re 2nd in the league offensively and 11th defensively. So that’ll give you an idea of how far we have to go.

“Yesterday was our day off, today we did nothing but defense. I don’t know if it will help us for Thursday, but we’ve got to get better. You know, we know that we can’t give up 80. (Utah) shot 68% in the second half and scored 48 points. Not going to win many games.”

The Ducks’ biggest struggles on defense have come on the perimeter. Colorado and Utah both shot above 40% from three-point range against Oregon because the Ducks weren’t closing out shooters well enough. The game against Utah was decided by three points, so one more defensive stop could’ve been the difference in the game.

One of the bright spots on Oregon’s road trip was N’Faly Dante, who was playing his second and third games back after being kept off the floor by injury for two months. Dante was impressive on both ends of the floor, and the Ducks are visibly a better team with him in the game.

“Yes we need that, we need that,” Altman said about Dante’s defensive effort. “We all know that we need that. Everybody bought in and I think we’re going to pick it up. We don’t have any other choice but to pick it up, all of us.”

This week, Oregon matches up with the Arizona schools, first with Arizona State and then with Arizona. If the Ducks want to ditch their losing streak, defensive improvement will be paramount as Altman said. It will be especially important on Saturday when Oregon hosts Arizona. The Wildcats score 89.9 points per game, the third most of any team in the country, and they do it with a 48.8 field goal percentage. The Ducks will need more than just Dante to be engaged defensively for 40 minutes.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire