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Ducks' latest loss shows they aren't going anywhere until they get healthy at the guard spot.

Oregon isn't going anywhere until it gets healthy.

Early losses to UC Irvine and No. 3 Houston highlighted the Ducks' lack of perimeter depth and on Thursday night in Moda Center they were again thwarted, this time disastrously so.

With three of Oregon's top four guards out with lower body injuries, No. 20 Connecticut wore out the depleted Ducks, 83-59, in the opening round of the Phil Knight Invitational.

"(Confidence) is a big part, our guys are down," Ducks head coach Dana Altman said. "We came into the season with big expectations. … We haven't adjusted well."

Last season, the court at Moda was the site of a doubt-inducing early season blowout loss to BYU. Those Ducks were far healthier than this year's unit, but fell due to inept perimeter shooting and a lack of effort on the glass and defensive end.

One calendar year later and the Ducks and coach Altman face an entirely different conundrum. Score notwithstanding, they've markedly improved at guarding and rebounding — although the perimeter shooting remains a concern — but have no way of getting a full picture of what this team can be.

Meanwhile, Dan Hurley's Huskies showed them just how great shooting on the perimeter opens the door for marquee post players to go to work.

As Oregon's three 7-footers struggled to navigate a convoluted paint and incessant double teams, its guards faced aggressive pressure all evening.

"We knew their backcourt was really limited and they don't have a lot of ball handlers (right now), and we wanted to exploit that," Huskies guard Jordan Hawkins said.

Echoed Altman: "Our ball handling is a real suspect now, people know that."

PMG PHOTO: RALEIGH EMERSON - Oregon men's basketball's Will Richardson (0) handles the ball up top against UConn during the first round of the Phil Knight Invitational on Nov. 24, 2022, at the Moda Center.

On the other end, the Huskies carved the Ducks' zone defense, capitalizing on open looks in a shooting performance that will go down in UConn history. The Huskies hit 17-of-37 threes, a school best for made 3-pointers in a game, and swiftly shot the game out of reach in the second half with the ranged onslaught.

Due to the backcourt injuries of Brennan Rigsby, Jermaine Cousinard, and more recently Keeshawn Barthelemy, Oregon guard Will Richardson entered the evening having played every minute of the Ducks' last two games. On Thursday, he didn't take a seat until midway through the second half.

Forward Quincy Guerrier who started at power forward last season for Oregon, and who had yet to shoot over 40% from the field in a game this year, scored just five points as he continues to adjust to playing the small forward spot out of necessity.

The play of the Ducks' big men, the only legitimate aspect Altman's team has the chance to hang their hat on to this point, was a bright spot, the coach admitted. N'Faly Dante scored 15 points and freshman Kel'el Ware had the most productive offensive game of his career with 18 points and nine rebounds.

"I loved his production on the offensive end," Altman said. "I needed that same type of bounce on the defensive end. …They spread the floor with four out of five out, he's just not used to that."

Such is the issue for Altman and these Ducks: They're injury-induced depth concerns and shortcomings, on one end or the other, have consistently rendered the positives mute.

What the Ducks got Thursday is a reminder of what they hope to be when healthy. With four newcomers at guard themselves, the Huskies' shooting opened the paint for their star big man Adama Sanoga, meanwhile their depth allowed them to play an in-your-face brand of defense.

Unfortunately for the Ducks, reinforcements aren't yet in route. Rigsby remains sidelined for at least another week and Keeshawn and Cousinard are looking at more than a month, maybe more on the sidelines.

Oregon faces the loser of No. 12 Michigan State vs. No. 18 Alabama tomorrow and will have one final game Sunday as the Phil Knight Invitational bracket continues to play out.

"You just got to bounce back," Altman said. "Can't feel sorry for yourself. Can't make excuses. You go with the guys you got. You try to compete."


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