During a skid that saw his team lose six of seven entering a home game with USC on Saturday, Oregon coach Dana Altman didn’t have a lot to feel good about.

That changed when the Ducks beat USC. Altman was asked after the game about a promotion that gave out Phil Knight bobbleheads in honor of the Ducks’ major benefactor from Nike.

“That’ll be a collector’s item; I am sure people will be saving that,” Altman said. “Make sure the team doesn’t get any so we don’t put any on eBay and sell it. We have to make sure the team doesn’t get any.”

It was a clear reference to the fact that Ducks players Dominic Artis and Ben Carter were suspended for nine games earlier this season for selling Oregon-provided gear.

Altman laughed after that one.

“That’s the first time I’ve laughed in a month,” he said. “Thanks.”

Melting the ice

UA center Kaleb Tarczewski has improved his free-throw shooting from 66.3 percent as a freshman last season to 88.4 percent now. But the difference isn’t just hard work and practice.

It’s from simply being around another year.

“Last year I was sort of uncomfortable and a little nervous at the free-throw line,” Tarczewski said. “It’s tough having 12,000 people stare at you when you’re shooting a free throw. You kind of feel like you’re out there on an iceberg almost. Getting comfortable with that has made it a lot easier.”

Hanging tough

Brandon Ashley hasn’t been available for comment since his injury but, not surprisingly, coach Sean Miller says he was “devastated” by it.

“Brandon is a great kid, a very intelligent kid,” Miller said. “But any time at that age, with the game that you love, the dreams that you have, and in Brandon’s case he had established himself as a real part of a team that went 21-0 with him. … With all of the things that have gone right with his hard work and investment, when you’re done like that on one play it knocks you back.

“But I have no doubts. Brandon comes from an incredible family, I think everybody has that a positive spirit about them, and he’ll move forward and go on and do great things.”

Ashley hasn’t posted much on Twitter since the injury but did post that he appreciated “all the love and prayers” from well-wishers.

Boo Bears

Believers in the paranormal might have a reason to explain Arizona’s loss at Cal, which included Nick Johnson’s poor shooting and the loss of Ashley for the season: The Wildcats stayed at an iconic, 99-year-old luxury hotel in Berkeley that kind of freaked out Johnson.

“I swear this hotel is haunted with ghosts,” Johnson posted on Twitter, the day before UA lost.

Guard T.J. McConnell, however, wasn’t much of a believer.

“I heard it was haunted,” McConnell said. “I had no problems with it, but it was kind of scary.”

And, besides, the only thing that may really matter for a 7-footer was just fine.

“The beds were comfortable,” Tarczewski said.

Bruce Pascoe

Sportswriter for the Arizona Daily Star covering Arizona Wildcats basketball