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Duck Notes

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The Bruins will be taking on a wounded, but explosive, Ducks team tomorrow afternoon at Eugene in a game that, if we win, set us on a clear course for taking early control of this year's conference race. Here are the Sportsline notes on the Ducks who stumbled against a lower tier Pac-10 team last night:

Coming off their first defeat of the season, the Ducks will get a true test of their resilience. Undefeated and top-ranked UCLA comes to McArthur Court on Saturday.

"This is the first time this team this year has hit some adversity," Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. "It's going to give us an opportunity to test the depths of our character."

The Ducks are only 2-22 against No. 1 teams, and they haven't defeated a team at the top of the polls since upsetting the Bruins in 1974.

Beyond the challenge of simply playing a team as good as UCLA is the fact the Ducks have suddenly lost that sense of invincibility that built with each victory. Suddenly, they're coming off a loss, and at home, and the memories of eight losses by three points or fewer last season are likely to be stirred up again after a two-point loss to USC.

Oregon may need an emotional lift from the possible return of Malik Hairston, who has missed the past four games with a heel injury. Kent said there is a good chance Hairston would be available for the UCLA game.
We should definitely keep an eye on the Hairston situation. Hairston (averaging 13.4 points a game) is a key player in the Duck rotation, which features 6 players averaging double figures. These guys have an explosive backcourt featuring senior guard Aaron Brooks (leading the Ducks with 17.4 pts a game) and freshmen sensation Tajuan Porter, a 5'6 dynamite who is 3rd on the team averaging 14.3 points a game. This kid, let's just say, has a little flair for the dramatic:

(HT to our SBN colleague Addicted to Quack for that video).

The kid has slowed down a little ever since he exploded out of the gate, but, nevertheless, our backcourt guys will have to be weary about a guy who has shown the ability to be a prolific scorer early in the season. And speaking of prolific scoring, there is also Bryce Taylor to worry about. AA will be matching up against this 6'5 205 junior (from So. Cal.) who is second in the team averaging 16.3 points a game.

At this point of the season, I usually don't pay lot of attention to RPIs. But FWIW the Ducks, despite their 13-1 record, have an RPI of 48 with a SOS that ranks number 200 in the nation. They did have a good win against Georgetown. However, they struggled to beat Rice, Oregon State (to be fair, they were playing without Hairston), before falling against Floyd's clowns last night.

Going into Thursday night, Duck followers were excited, but clearly had some concern. From Oregon blogger Bob Rickert following their close win against the Beavers:
[T]hey're gonna need a better effort than they gave yesterday in th win over Oregon State. The Beavs played tough D to their credit, but the Ducks looks horrible in the first half with turnovers galore. On the upside, that's the kind of pathetic opening 12 minutes that would've buried Kent's recent teams. On the downside, how can they even think they're gonna compete with in the upper half of the Pac 10 this year if they're that sloppy with the ball? The answer: They can't.

This is a Duck team that can't afford turnovers, can't afford to get Leunen in foul trouble as he's their only reliable big man, and can't afford to jack up 3's on the road the same way they do at home (Again, the shooting percentage always goes down on the road, especially if you rely mostly on perimeter shooting.)
FWIW Leunen was 4 for 9, scoring 12 points in last night's trap game. It will be key for Mata, Luc and rest of our bigs to make sure we utilize the matchup advantage in our front court. Hopefully, Mata can continue the stellar play from last night on the road. It gave the entire team a huge lift in the second half, enabling the Bruins to breeze through the rest of the second half.

I will try to post more notes on the Ducks before tomorrow's game. I am pretty sure Coach Howland will make our guys realize how fired up the Ducks are going to be after Thursday night. I read somewhere (apologies for not being able to find the link) how the Duck crowd wasn't all that fired up yesterday. I don't think that will be an issue on Saturday afternoon.

The Bruins will have to come out with their trademark intense defense and focus on offense (DC and his team-mates can't have the same game they did during first half against Oregon State Thursday night). Let's hope they take care of business tomorrow.