Men's BasketballSports

I-5 trip could be road block

Christin Palazzolo

The Oregon Duck basketball team (3-0) will take its show on the road for the first time this season when they travel to Portland to play the University of Portland Pilots Saturday.

The game, which will start at 7 p.m., is a rematch of last year’s game in Eugene, when the Ducks won 79-76 in overtime.

“I haven’t seen them this year, but I know they’re a tough team and it’s going to be a tough game,” senior guard Tajuan Porter said. “Last year we went into overtime and won at the buzzer.”

The hour and a half trip up Interstate-5 is only one of two road trips for the Ducks during the non-conference schedule, so the team will try and soak up the experience to prepare for the Pac-10 schedule that starts at the end of December.

“We took this team on the road a few weeks back to Nike to simulate a road game, but this is going to be different because we’re spending the night up there,” head coach Ernie Kent said.

The experience is essential for the freshman to have early in the season, says Porter. With the crowd loud, it’s important to learn how to block out the noise and focus.

“The crowd is against you,” Porter said. “You have to find your motivation because the crowd energizes you and they’re going to be against us…it’s just going to be us out there. It’s a different atmosphere.”

The Pilots are 2-0 so far this season with wins over Eastern Washington University on Nov. 14 and Seattle University on Nov. 17. Four guys are averaging over 10 points per game, with guard T.J. Campbell leading all scorers with 18 points per game. Campbell’s counterpart, Nik Raivio is averaging 16.5 points per game and is 50 percent from three point range.

“They both could play in our league,” Kent said of the guard tandem. “Campbell is just really, really steady and not going to make many mistakes. Ravio is a big time player. Every time he gets a chance to light you up he’s going to do that and it’s going to be a challenge for us.

Luke Sikma is also a force in the paint for the Pilots, and the Ducks will be tested with a better opponent than the three they played last weekend in the BTI Tip Off Tournament when they won by an average score of 32.3 points per game.

“Eric (Reveno) has done a great job with this team and you can see why people have picked them to challenge Gonzaga because they have all the pieces there,” Kent said. “They have the size, the experience, the great guard play. It’s going to be a big test for us.”
But with a week to prepare for the Pilots, Oregon is confident they will be able to handle its first challenge of the year. Freshman Jamil Wilson said the older guys are using the experience from last year to focus them this year.

“I think we have a great focus going into the weekend,” Wilson said. “We’ve been talking about Portland since Sunday and Coach Kent said that we’re not taking a day off, and that’s a good thing.”

Porter said that preparation for an opponent starts the very next practice after a game. Coaches will implement the defense the other team runs, so all week in practice the Ducks will play against the defense and defend against some of the teams’ plays.

“We prepare all week in advance,” Porter said. “We start to do their stuff in practice, but we don’t watch film until two days before usually. We just practice their sets and do what they like to do all week.”

But in the end, junior LeKendric Longmire says it’s just about going out there and playing basketball.

“We just have to focus,” Longmire said. “We came into this week ready to take our show on the road and not have the fans and actually be in a somewhat hostile environment against a hostile team. We just have to go in with our gameplan and be ready to execute.”

Plus, beating an in-state school is always nice too, he says.

“It’s extremely important,” Longmire said. “Everyone wants bragging writes for the state. And we plan on winning all these in state games, not to look ahead past Portland.”

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