Coming off back-to-back road losses, Oregon has to like its chances of getting back on track with a couple of home games up next.
Starting point guard Dominic Artis, though, is uncertain to be available again Thursday night when the No. 19 Ducks put a 20-game home winning streak on the line against Colorado.
While Oregon (18-4, 7-2 Pac-12) still has its sights set on the conference title, coach Dana Altman's team hasn't played much like a contender of late. The Ducks saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end last Wednesday in a 76-52 loss at Stanford, then fell 58-54 at California on Saturday.
Five Oregon players average at least 10 points, but only one scored in double figures last Wednesday and two on Saturday. Second-leading scorer E.J. Singler totaled 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting in those defeats.
"Every season, there's a series of ups and downs. You're judged by how you bounce back from the downs," said Altman, whose team shot 21.4 percent from 3-point range in the last two games. "Every team has to bounce back at some point in time, and we've got to bounce back here - and our guys will do that. ... We just need to play better."
The Ducks have had an especially hard time taking care of the basketball during Artis' three-game absence due to a foot injury, a stretch during which they've averaged 21.7 turnovers - 5.6 more than their season mark. Johnathan Loyd started those games in place of Artis and committed 12 turnovers, including a career-worst six Saturday, but he suffered a thumb injury against Cal and is also uncertain to suit up Thursday.
Artis is averaging 10.2 points and a team-best 3.8 assists for Oregon, riding its first losing streak since dropping its final four regular-season games of the 2010-11 season.
"Obviously it hurts, but we can't be down on ourselves," said senior Arsalan Kazemi, averaging a team-high 9.4 rebounds. "We just need to put everything together as a team and go play as hard as we can for the rest of the season. We really need to win these games coming up, especially at home."
Oregon, which hosts lowly Utah on Saturday, is 14-0 in Eugene this season and its 20-game home win streak is the third-longest in school history. While the Ducks outscored non-conference visitors by an average of 23.5 points this season, their four Pac-12 home games were decided by an average of 4.8.
"They're all must-wins, heck, have you talked to our fans? We gotta win 'em all," Altman said when discussing Thursday's matchup. "When you're in the conference season, all 18 games are important. ... If you're gonna stay in the hunt, you gotta win games at home."
Oregon suffered a pair of one-point defeats to Colorado last season, including one in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals, around a 90-81 home win over the Buffaloes.
"Their transition game, they get up and down," Altman said of Colorado. "They're a group that can score. Transition defense is gonna be really important. ... We anticipate a close ball game."
Colorado (14-7, 4-5) had won three straight before losing 58-55 at Utah on Saturday, dropping to 2-6 on the road.
Leading the team with 14.7 points per game, Spencer Dinwiddie finished with 18, but Askia Booker, averaging 14.1, scored eight on 3-of-14 shooting.
"Players have to understand what's at stake and what every game means," coach Tad Boyle told the school's official website. "I don't think our guys understand that yet, and obviously they didn't understand it going into Utah."
The Buffaloes have dropped 36 of their last 37 road matchups against Top 25 teams but pushed the most recent one to overtime, losing 92-83 at then-No. 3 Arizona on Jan. 3.
The Associated Press News Service
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