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March 5, 2010 at 1:03 AM

Oregon post-game analysis: Pondexter powers UW to win

quincy vs oregon.JPG
Photo credit: AP Photo – Greg Wahl-Stephens
Various media outlets this week, including this blog, made note of Quincy Pondexter’s tendency to disappear on the road. Before tonight’s 86-72 victory at Oregon, he’d been held to nine points or fewer in four of the previous seven games.
Pondexter went a long way to changing his reputation as someone who shrinks in road games, scoring a career-high 34 points. He overpowered the Ducks on aggressive dribble drives and outran them in transition for six dunks that rocked the 83-year-old McArthur Court.
Afterward Pondexter said he wasn’t trying to send any message, but he did acknowledge the negative criticism may have motivated him.
“I was a little bit more aggressive,” he said. “I felt I was in a little semi-funk and I just wanted to come out and prove to everybody that I’m a quality player on the road even though some people don’t think so. I just wanted to come out and play my game.”
When asked if he uses the criticism as motivation Pondexter said: “I just laugh it off because I know the truth. Whatever statistics or whatever people say it’s not because it’s necessarily what I’m doing on the road. Maybe it’s not my night. It happens that it’s on the road some of those times. I just had to find a way to bounce back and play my game.”
It can be argued Pondexter has never played better than he did tonight when he converted 14 of 18 shots from the field, 4 of 4 from the free throw line, 2 of 3 on three-pointers and finished with 10 points and six assists. The only blemish: three turnovers.
Otherwise, he was perfect.
Even though Pondexter said he didn’t want to send any messages, I got to believe he earned a Player of the Year vote tonight from Oregon coach Ernie Kent.
“Pondexter is a wonderful player,” Kent said. “He had an exceptional game. … Clearly he’s one of the better players if not the best in the conference.”
Oregon senior guard Tajuan Porter did his coach one better and said: “The Pac-10 player of the year – he’s got my vote.”
We mentioned Pondexter’s road struggles, particularly a seven-point outing last week at Washington State. To be fair, he’s had a few notable road games, including a 31-point display at Texas Tech, which was his previous high.
As good as he was that chilly night in Lubbock, Texas last December, Pondexter was even better tonight.

— For five minutes early in the second half, junior forward Justin Holiday (below) looked like the best player in the Pac-10. Seriously. He was that good. Displaying range and diversity, Holiday, who is normally a small forward, locked up Oregon point guard Malcolm Armstead.
Holiday said he was ticked off by Armstead who verbally taunted the Husky bench just before halftime. I couldn’t hear what was said, but it looked as if Armstead said something in the direction of the UW assistant Paul Fortier who shot back. It also looked as if coach Lorenzo Romar might have had a few words for Armstead.
“I didn’t hear it, but the bench did and all I knew is that he said something,” Holiday said. “When you start talking trash like that, I was like, you know what I just have to guard him and play my game and not worry about nothing and get a win.”
Armstead burned the Huskies for 21 points in Seattle. Tonight he missed nine of 13 shots and finished with nine points.
Said Romar: “Another reason we wanted Justin on him is Armstead is a phenomenal passer as well. When you have someone with length on him, maybe he’s not just going to be able to have his way with like he did the first time we played him.”
If Holiday had only contributed with defense, he would have had solid game. He also had a strong offensive performance and if not for Pondexter, Holiday would have been UW’s star.
In that five-minute scintillating stretch, Holiday drained a pair of three-pointers. The first one gave UW a 46-44 lead and the second put UW ahead 52-44. Holiday also attempted another off-balance trey early in the shot clock that might have been a heat check.
At any rate, he finished with 10 points, three rebounds, two assists, a block and a turnover. The only complaint: one free throw. In fact, Holiday has taken one FT in the past three games partly because he’s a shooter who doesn’t look to drive aggressively to the rim.
— Somewhat erratic game for Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton. Thomas needed 13 shots to score 14 points. He tallied five assists, five rebounds and three steals, but also had four turnovers. Overton had five points, five rebounds and five turnovers.
Statistically, Oregon’s guards (Porter and Armstead) outplayed them, but Overton showed grit drawing fouls and taking a team-high five free throws while Thomas turned into a playmaker in the second half. He found Pondexter and Matthew Bryan-Amaning for scores.
— Speaking of Bryan-Amaning, foul trouble prevented him from having an explosive night. It was obvious Oregon’s Michael Dunigan was hellbent on repeating his fine performance from their first meeting and things got a little chippy between the big men. Mostly it was Dunigan delivering the blows and Bryan-Amaning displayed amazing resolve not retaliating after a few hard fouls.
Because he’s so valuable, perhaps Bryan-Amaning shouldn’t chase the guards on the pick-n-rolls and play so aggressively on the perimeter. He got tagged with an early foul trying to keep a guard from turning the corner when he would have been better served to just fall back into the paint and not put the referee in the position where he could call a foul.
The Huskies need Bryan-Amaning if they want to make a postseason run because his backup Tyreese Breshers has yet to find the balance of being aggressive and being foul prone.
— It was good to see Elston Turner hit a pair of three-pointers on the road. He also contributed with three rebounds, two assists and a block. It was his fifth block this season.
— And finally, a few words on Pac-10 Tourney seeding. It the tournament began today, No. 8 Oregon and No. 9 Washington State would meet in the play-in game. Cal has locked up the top seed and it plays the 8-9 winner. No. 4. Arizona plays No. 5 UCLA in the top half of the bracket with Cal.
Washington is currently the third seed and would meet No. 6 Oregon State. No. 2 ASU plays No. 7 Stanford in the lower half of the bracket, setting up a potential UW-ASU matchup in the semifinals on Friday.
If UW wins or Arizona loses, the Huskies secure at least the No. 3 seed.
If UW wins and ASU loses, the Huskies would be the No. 2 seed.
There’s a chance UW could fall to the No. 4 seed. That happens if UW loses, Arizona wins and ASU loses. The Huskies would be tied with Arizona at 10-8 and the Wildcats would win a tie-breaker scenario to claim the third seed.

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