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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Ducks flying off tourney radar

    For the battered and bruised Oregon Ducks, who have lost five consecutive games, today is not a good time to be visiting Tucson.

    After defeating Arizona (13-9, 6-5 Pacific 10 Conference) in Eugene, Ore., Jan.14, the Ducks (10-13, 4-7) have been victorious just once. They have suffered an unusual number of home losses, falling in their last three games on McArthur Court.

    Asked if he is concerned about the timing of the game and Arizona needing to get back on track in its next contest, Oregon head coach Ernie Kent said, “”Yes, I think any coach would.

    “”Any road trip is a tough, tough road trip, regardless of what people’s records are.””

    In the last meeting, Oregon sophomore guard Malik Hairston caught fire, scoring 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range.

    “”The first game, Malik had a lot of open 3s that he knocked down, and this game we’re going to make adjustments,”” said senior guard Hassan Adams.

    Hairston will need to carry even more of the workload now after sophomore guard and third-leading scorer Bryce Taylor suffered a hyperextended right knee during Monday evening’s practice in McArthur Court, leaving him sidelined for the next nine to 20 days, according to team medical personnel.

    Taylor, who scored 18 points against Southern California but played sparingly in Oregon’s last two games – losses to California and Stanford – had been struggling to find the form of a year ago when he was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team.

    “”The thing with Bryce has just been good shot, bad shot, and when he takes good shots he’s an excellent shooter,”” Kent said. “”When he takes bad shots, he doesn’t shoot it as well, and that’s the thing to me that has led to his struggles offensively.””

    Senior guard Brandon Lincoln (6.1 points per game) was starting in Taylor’s spot prior to the injury because of Taylor’s recent play.

    Hairston, meanwhile, has been inconsistent to say the least, scoring 23 points against Stanford and then just six against California in what has been an up-and-down season for the highly touted former McDonald’s All-American.

    “”Malik is a very talented player, and I think you can see from some of his games, I would say, that he is a little on the streaky side,”” Arizona head coach Lute Olson said.ÿ””If he gets it going, you better not let him catch the ball.””

    Oregon has out-shot its opponents from the field and out-rebounded them, but Kent said the Ducks’ biggest problem this season has been closing out games.

    “”We’ve played well defensively in all these games, probably the best defense we’ve played … here in many, many years, but we continue to struggle to shoot free throws and shoot the 3,”” he said.

    Oregon ranks just above Arizona in shooting 3-pointers, at a 31.8 percent clip, good for ninth in the conference. Yet the Ducks have attempted far and away the most 3-pointers in the Pac-10. The Ducks are also dead last in the conference in free-throw shooting.

    “”We go in spurts where our confidence is there and we shoot it extremely well, and other times where we have the exact same wide open shots, and we have not shot the ball well,”” Kent said.

    Junior point guard Aaron Brooks has given Arizona a tough time before, averaging 14 points in his last three games against the Wildcats, including a 17-point, five-rebound and four-assist performance back in January.

    “”He’s quick,”” said junior point guard Mustafa Shakur, who will likely shadow the 160-pound guard.

    Down low, the Ducks have benefited from a junior college transfer, junior forward Ivan Johnson, whose muscle could pose problems in the post. Johnson, who originally signed with Cincinnati, was released from his letter of intent when the Bearcats went through a coaching change.

    “”He’s a bruising guy,”” junior center Kirk Walters said. “”You have to keep him away from the hoop and keep him off the boards,””

    Johnson averages 7.7 points per game and gets help from less imposing but more skillful 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Marty Leunen, who leads the team in free-throw percentage.

    “”Leunen is a very good shooter also,”” Olson said. “”You can see that anytime someone is shooting over 80 percent from the free-throw line, you know that guy is a good shooter.””

    The Ducks and the Wildcats are each motivated by a sense of revenge.

    Arizona lost at Oregon earlier this year but has beaten the Ducks in 20 of its last 21 games in Tucson. Oregon, meanwhile, will try to break out of its five-game skid.

    “”They need wins, we need wins, and all that just adds to it,”” Kent said.

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