Oregon delivers on its promised turnaround, upsetting No. 9 Arizona in incredible fashion

After Thursday’s embarrassing loss to Arizona State, Oregon’s head coach Dana Altman promised changes are coming.

Those changes didn’t last long as Saturday marked a new start for the 2022-2023 season. for the Ducks, as they dominated No. 9 Arizona to a 19-point victory.

The changes in Oregon’s style of play began in evidence Saturday afternoon in front of 7,970 in attendance as the Ducks implemented two new players. Jermaine Couisnard and Nate Bittle he started as a shooting guard and a winger Brennan Rigsbyand Quincy Guerrier they were now bench members of the unit.

The most significant change in the behavior and effort levels of the ducks came emphatically N’Faly Dante slam dunk over Kerr Kriisa, sending the crowd into a frenzy. The dunk set the tone for the night, and Oregon never trailed.

With all 11 scholarship players available for the second straight game, it became apparent that Oregon is a completely different team with multiple healthy running backs. Will Richardson no longer had to play 35+ minutes and handle the creation or recording responsibilities.

Couisnard was incredible for the Ducks in their upset of Arizona, providing Oregon with a second helper and shooter. Couisnard — who made one of the luckiest shots in Oregon history on an errant pass — finished the game with 27 points on 14 shots, including six 3-pointers.

Changes to the rotation included doubling up on Couisnard and Keeshawn Barthelemy in minutes, with Oregon running more than three guards. Barthelemy finished the night with just five points, but added six rebounds and five assists, once again adding another shot creator or helper to Oregon’s offense.

Barthelemy finished tied for third in plus/minus at +16 in his 26 minutes.

“We just came together as a team,” Couisnard said after the game. “We were just helping each other. We knew we were better than what we showed on Thursday. I feel like it was a team effort by everyone.”

From that moment on, the changes were small but noticeable. The rotations were sharper. Hands were up and active as the Ducks jumped into a 1-2-2 press. Players began cutting the ball off and passing into the corners to set up open jump shots.

The added energy and effort resulted in Oregon winning the rebounds by a total of ten points, leading to 14 second chances and 40 points in pain. Dante started the changes with his dunk and continued his Pac-12 rampage, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and three steals against one of the better centers in Oumar Ballo.

“He was really good,” Altman said of Dante’s performance. “Him and Jermain, Will was good too, they got that separation for us. I mean, 9-for-11, Jermaine, like I said, 6-for-9 (from three), offensively, those guys really picked us apart. But on defense, it was everyone. Even if we didn’t shoot that well tonight, defensively, I think we would have been there.”

While it might feel more like a midterm success than passing a standardized test, Oregon will need to carry this energy and momentum traveling to Cal and Stanford next weekend. Both programs are near the bottom of the conference but have provided tough challenges to previous Oregon teams.

There’s no denying that Oregon’s game on Thursday was the best basketball of the season. From here, Oregon will need to repeat this performance as often as possible. Some things will be hard to repeat, like shooting 53 percent from the field and over 34 percent from deep. Oregon is a team that averages 43 percent overall and under 29 percent from deep.

Saturday’s performance provides a glimmer of hope for a season that took a darker turn after the loss to Arizona State.

Oregon heads to Cal on Wednesday the 18th, hoping to string together back-to-back wins for the first time in over a month.

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