Waverly Austin on stand-out game, urgency
The Oregon Ducks have taken their game to another level by winning six-straight to earn their way back into contention for a berth into the NCAA Tournament.
The team could reach an even higher level and make noise in said tournament should senior center Waverly Austin continue to play like he did during Tuesday’s 85-78 win over Arizona State at Matthew Knight Arena.
Austin, along with fellow seniors Johnathan Loyd, Mike Moser, Jason Calliste, Richard Amardi, Nicholas Lucenti and Brian Crow, will make his final appearance at home during Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against No. 4 Arizona.
If his performance proves to be anything like his second-to-last game at MKA the Ducks could pull off the upset.
“I’m just trying to come out with a sense of urgency ‘cause I know it’s my last year,” the 6-foot-11 Austin said following the team’s win over the Sun Devils. “I’m trying to make the NCAA Tournament with the team, and it would be real special to do it two years in a row because not a lot of players can say they did that.”
Austin, who has struggled for much of the season, had five points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots against ASU.
His performance helped offset ASU’s 7-foot-2 center Jordan Bachinsky’s 13 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Austin and the Ducks face an even bigger challenge Saturday against the Wildcats, loaded with inside talent.
That makes it even more imperative that Austin plays well.
That didn’t occur during the first meeting when he played just seven minutes and picked up two personal fouls. Arizona won 67-65.
"I hope he’ll contribute [Saturday],” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on him. He had a fantastic game against Arizona State.”
Arizona is led inside by 7-0 sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski, who had 12 points and seven rebounds in the first meeting between these two teams.
“Tarczewski, with his size, gives Wave a good matchup,” Altman said. “So we're hoping Wave can give us something again."
Oregon has shown that it can win without big performances from Austin.
Prior to Tuesday night's game, Oregon won five-straight games with Austin averaging 1.2 points, two rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while playing 10 minutes per contest.
But such showings by the team’s only real big man will eventually catch up to Oregon when it faces better competition in the tournament.
In those cases, UO would likely need Austin to give them something positive on the inside in order for the team to advance.
“I always have confidence going into a game because I know I can help the team out,” Austin said. “I come to every game with a positive vibe.”