Dana Altman is listening for more chatter.
The Oregon men’s basketball coach knows that is not the way his players prefer to communicate.
“I’ve been talking about communication all year, that’s one thing we haven’t done a very good job of is teaching and getting them to understand how important it is on the offensive and defensive end,” Altman said. “I’ve joked around that if they could text each other, we would have better communication. But talking to each other, they just don’t do it. This has been a real quiet team.”
Altman contrasted that with the Ducks who reached the Final Four two years ago.
“Loud guys,” he recalled. “(Dillon) Brooks talked all the time, (Dylan) Ennis and Jordan Bell too. This is a quiet group. They don’t talk much on or off the floor. We have to do a better job getting them to do that. Get them out of their comfort zone.”
Oregon is coming off arguably its best defensive performance of the season Sunday when it held Stanford to 27.3 percent shooting during a 69-46 win over the Cardinal. That marked the fewest points allowed this season by the Ducks and the second-lowest shooting percentage by an opponent.
“They are a good team, so I liked the way we came out and defended,” said UO sophomore Kenny Wooten, who matched a career high with seven blocked shots. “We held them to two points for a long time. I was not surprised by how we prepared for it, but I was surprised they only scored two.”
Wooten blocked three shots in the first five minutes and had five blocks as Oregon built a 16-2 lead with 6:30 to go in the first half.
“At some point I’m trying to hunt down shots at all times,” he said. “I try to find as many opportunities as I can. I got three early and kept hunting.”
Wooten’s seven blocked shots were almost half of Stanford’s 15 field goals.
“Kenny set an unbelievable tone in the first 10 minutes,” Altman said. “He made them hesitant offensively and was active and in great position. There is no doubt he gave us an opportunity because we were having trouble getting going offensively ourselves.”
The Ducks lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense by allowing 64.2 points per game. UO’s opponents are shooting 40.7 percent from the field, including a conference-low 29.6 percent on 3-pointers.
“Defense is always our top priority, getting stops,” UO guard Victor Bailey said. “Coach has emphasized that since the beginning of the year, locking in on the defensive end.”
Bailey, who missed all seven three-pointers he attempted in the previous two games, was 3-for-7 behind the arc against Stanford while scoring 11 points, his top mark in seven games.
“I was able to knock a couple down and obviously it feels good to see some shots go in, that is a confidence boost,” he said. “I will continue to work. I have been working throughout the entire year so I knew they would fall.”
Junior guard Payton Pritchard, who shot 31.8 percent in the first nine Pac-12 games, including 28.3 percent on 3-pointers, was nominated for Pac-12 player of the week after scoring 20 points in wins over Cal and Stanford while making 15-of-27 shots, including 7-of-13 3-pointers.
Oregon ranks ninth in the conference by shooting 44.7 percent from the field.
“It was great to see (Bailey) hit some shots and Payton shoot well,” Altman said. “We have not shot worth a darn and part of that is shot selection and part ball movement. Part of it is hitting open shots. We have had a lot of open shots. I think Ken Pom said we are shooting uncontested shots at a lower percentage than contested shots. That really scares you. That’s one I’ve never seen before. We need to make sure we relax and hit some shots.”
Oregon (15-9, 6-5) is tied for fifth in the Pac-12 as it prepares to visit Oregon State (15-8, 7-4) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday to begin a stretch of five road trips in its final seven conference games.
“We will find out how together of a team we have because the schedule shifts against us,” Altman said. “The best thing is that we are probably as healthy as we have been in a long time, especially with a couple days here to get Paul (White’s) ankle better. Kenny is getting used to his mask and I think we are as healthy as we’ve been. So that is the positive, but the negative is that the schedule shifts against us.”