Last time our Ben Ball warriors took on the Ducks, they were playing without LRMAM and LMR (who were sidelined from the concussions they suffered against Southern Cal). Our backs were against the wall as Love and his team-mates took on an ugly crowd ready to breathe fire on them in Eugene. That's when Love had one of those seminal performances that will be etched forever in Bruin lore (26 pts and 18 rebs) in a win, which Coach Howland labeled as the "best" in his 27 years of coaching hoops.
This time around we are going to have Luc and Lo in our rotation. They are getting healthy and rounding into form from all of their nagging injuries. Meanwhile, the Ducks are coming into Pauley on a down note as they gave away a game at Pauley East late last night:
The Ducks outrebounded USC (16-9, 7-6) early, building a 42-28 lead with two minutes left in the half. Much of the energy came from seldom-used freshman LeKendric Longmire, who was busy getting steals, putbacks, keeping balls alive on the offensive boards and even pick-pocketing Mayo. By halftime, Longmire had doubled his previous high for a Pac-10 game with eight points.
The Ducks were efficient, too. Oregon, which had double-digit turnovers in each of its last six games, turned it over just once in the first half and took a 42-33 lead into halftime,
But early in the second half, some of that aggressiveness began to disappear.
USC's Taj Gibson tipped in his own shot to cut the lead to 50-42 and Kent, sensing a letdown, called a 30-second timeout.
Suddenly, what had gone so smoothly for the Ducks in the game's first 25 minutes was unraveling. In a two-minute span midway through the second half, Oregon committed four quick turnovers - after having just the one until that point - and the Trojans were right back in it.
That said, I wouldn't advise anyone from getting too comfortable or cocky about their chances for tomorrow afternoon's national televised game at Pauley. Despite their problems, Ducks are still the second best scoring team in the Pac-10 at 77.8 pts per game.
They are deadly from the outside, leading the league in 3pt FG. They are also one of the few teams who can present matchup problem for us. They can spread out and create a lot of one on one situations that creates problem for us around the perimeter. We hope this time around DC, RW, and JS's perimeter defense is going to be lot better with Luc and Lo's presence inside. We can't let (Bryce) Taylor and rest of speedy Duck guards go around us in the perimeter.
On the defensive side since the Ducks do not have a lot of size inside we can probably expect a heavy doze of zone defense. While I realize it is important for Shipp to knock down few here and there, he still shouldn't be forcing up shots. What we will need is the aggressiveness from RW and DC so that they can keep slashing to the basket creating options for themselves or their team-mates. That brings me to Kevin Love.
Again may be Love will have another monster game, may be he won't. But what we must do is to make sure our offense runs through him. Those guys are going to pack it inside and focus their attention on our big guy, which should create opportunities for Luc to drive to the basket.
For more on the Duck roster here is a little update from Sportsline.com:
--F Maarty Leunen is going to go down as one of Oregon's best all-around big men ever. He's now up to 20th in career scoring at Oregon with 1,164 points, and he moved past Jim Loscutoff for fourth on the all-time rebounding list with 852. He could end up among Oregon's top 15 all-time scorers and he should be second on the school list for rebounds when his career ends next month.
--What do the Ducks do with G Tajuan Porter? They need his offense, as his early 3-pointers propelled Oregon into a lead over USC. But he is a defensive liability with a sore groin that seems to make it difficult for him to handle opponents who drive. It was again the case as USC's Angelo Johnson went for 14 points, 10 over his average, by either taking Porter into the key on drives or losing him to hit a trio of 3-point baskets. And Porter's 5-foot-6 stature does come into play, as when he was left guarding O.J. Mayo as the shot clock ran out, and the USC freshman calmly rose and popped a 3-point shot that Porter had no chance to contest, giving USC a 73-69 lead in the final two minutes.
Also since we are on the topic of Ducks, I will reiterate the message UCLA sent out (and Stan Love echoed) to everyone who has tickets to this game (I am assuming that's who this email was addressed to). We (especially the "Den") don't need behave like Oregon's student section tomorrow. I am all for creative heckling and getting on opposing players. Hey that's part of the fun of student section. But there is absolutely no place for the kind of language Oregon students hurled at Love and his family. Besides we should follow our cue DC and Love themselves.
Hopefully it will be their game that will do all the talking. And that's predicated upon giving the same intense and focused defensive effort we have seen in our last two games.