Oregon men’s basketball hosts Arizona State as both look to get back into NCAA Tournament bubble conversation

The Oregon Ducks are finally getting healthy and if they hope to move back into the mix for postseason consideration, they will need to capitalize on opportunities like what’s in front of them this weekend against the Arizona schools.

The Ducks host the Arizona State Sun Devils Thursday night (6 p.m., FS1) at Matthew Knight Arena in a matchup that both sides need to bolster their respective playoff resumes.

Oregon (9-7, 3-2 Pac-12), which is coming off its best win of the season at the Utah Utes, welcomed Jermaine Couisnard and Nate Bittle back last weekend and is expected to have Keeshawn Barthelemy back as soon as tonight.

Couisnard’s debut helped the Ducks on both ends of the court, and a deeper guard rotation comes at the perfect time. The Sun Devils rely heavily on perimeter players and both teams are struggling mightily to make outside shots, especially in Pac-12 play.

“Jermaine did a nice job,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “Gave us another ball-handler, took a little pressure off Will (Richardson) to handle the ball all the time and his defensive awareness is very good because of his experience. I’m not sure it’s important who starts, it’s important who finishes. We’re going to have a lot of close games, I feel like, down the stretch here so we’ve got to figure out a lineup that can really close games.”

The Sun Devils (13-3, 4-1) swept the Washington schools last weekend and are ahead of the Ducks in NET (56 to 64). ASU has been dreadful from the perimeter, shooting 21.5% in its last five conference games, but gets a lot of its points off turnovers and fast-break opportunities.

“Defensively, they’re really good,” Altman said. “Defensively, their activity is good. They’re not shooting it much better than we are. Defensively, they’ve been pretty good and they’ve won some close games.”

When Arizona State plays in the half court, it relies on guard Frankie Collins and center Warren Washington to distribute for DJ Horne, who is averaging 12.1 points per game, Desmond Cambridge Jr. (10.9) and Devan Cambridge (10.6).

“They’re heady guards,” Couisnard said. “They like scoring, they like attacking, playing off the bounce a lot. We know we got to contain them off the dribble and they’re going to take crazy shots, so make them take a lot of contested crazy shots.”

Oregon will pose a far different challenge for Arizona State than its recent opponents though, especially since it will have more players available.

“It’s tough to simulate that in practice, and because we don’t play that style of defense, but we’ll see some 1-2-2, 3/4 court (presses) and they’ll still play some 2-3 matchup (zone) and I’ve seen it shift into more of a man defense even mid-possession,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “So, I think we’ve got to have movement, so we’ve got to take advantage of our opportunities, getting in gaps, can’t just stand around and just zone … but they do a very good job of it. It’s a unique style of defense.”

It’ll take more than defensive prowess for the Ducks to earn what would be an important Quadrant 2 win. They’re shooting just 29% from three-point range on the season, including 21.2% in league play, a statistic heavily influenced by a 1 for 14 outing at the Colorado Buffaloes.

Couisnard and Barthelemy will be crucial to Oregon’s improvement from the perimeter, and Altman believes the Ducks climb to the mid-30s from long range this season.

“It’s not like turning on a light switch; it’ll take some time,” Altman said. “We do have to shoot the ball better. We’ve got to get better though, there’s no doubt that. There’s no doubt that what we’re doing now is not good enough and we’ve got to make progress every day in practice.”

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