When it was announced that starting point guard Dominic Artis was one of two players (forward Ben Carter being the other) suspended nine games for a violation of NCAA rules, there wasn’t a great deal of consternation amongst those who follow the Oregon Ducks. Why? There’s still plenty of talent at Dana Altman’s disposal in the backcourt, with his most seasoned player also being the one who’s the most overlooked.
That would be senior point guard Johnathan Loyd, who won MVP honors at last season’s Pac-12 tournament and has been a steady influence for a team filled with contributors who played their basketball at other schools in 2012-13. And in the 13th-ranked Ducks’ 115-105 overtime win at Ole Miss on Sunday night Loyd put together one of the best games of his career, racking up 25 points and 15 assists with just four turnovers.
Marshall Henderson’s career-high 39 points paced the Rebels, who shot 15-for-35 from beyond the arc. A Jarvis Summers contested three-pointer with less than a second remaining sent the game into overtime, but Ole Miss’ leading scorer struggled for much of the night before finishing with 12 points.
Loyd was one of six Ducks to score in double figures and the seventh player to score, forward Richard Amardi, finished the game with nine points. Of those six players four weren’t Ducks last season, including forward Mike Moser (25 points, ten rebounds) and guard Joseph Young (19 points). While that certainly doesn’t guarantee chemistry issues it does make the presence of a veteran figure important, and Loyd has been that player for Oregon and that’s unlikely to change when Artis returns to action on December 17 against UC Irvine whether the senior continues to start or not.
Those transfers have the talent needed to lead the Ducks, who are expected to contend for the Pac-12 title, a long way but in order to do so the entire team will need to do a better job on the boards. Oregon broke even with the Rebels but Ole Miss grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, managing to grab nearly 35% of their missed shots, and outscored the Ducks 20-5 in second chance points. That didn’t result in a loss in Oxford, but this is an area Oregon will need to address in the final games before the start of Pac-12 play.
Offensively this is one of the best teams in the country, especially with Moser (scoring 23 of his 25 in the second half and overtime) looking to be back at the level he played at in his first season at UNLV and their three-headed attack in the backcourt. But while many count down the days until Artis is eligible to return to the court, don’t overlook what Johnathan Loyd’s provided in his absence.
Loyd’s been one of the most-improved players in the Pac-12, and that development is one reason why the Ducks will be a contender for conference supremacy.