Men's BasketballSports

Surprising start for Ducks

Shawn Hatjes

Two exhibition games, 12 preseason games, 18 Pacific-10 Conference games and one game or more at the Pac-10 Tournament make up the Oregon men’s basketball schedule. With 14 of those games behind them (not including the two exhibition contests) and a 10-4 overall record, 2-0 in Pac-10 play, 13th-year head coach Ernie Kent is making sure his young squad doesn’t get mentally ahead of itself.

Before practice yesterday afternoon, many of the players began warming up and going through some individual offensive progressions, focusing on the little things. Sophomore guard Teondre Williams and junior forward LeKendric Longmire worked on driving the lane and finishing with the opposite hand with first-year associate head coach Mike Dunlap, while sophomores Drew Wiley, Garrett Sim, Matthew Humphrey and freshman E.J. Singler shot three-pointers from the top of the key with director of basketball operations Josh Jamieson.

Once Dunlap finished up with Williams and Longmire, he began helping sophomore big men Josh Crittle and Michael Dunigan with their left-handed hook shots in the paint. All of this took place prior to Kent’s arrival, which shows just how well the Ducks have bought into what the coaching staff has presented them.

“Everybody’s bringing what they’ve got to the table,” Dunigan said. “The main part is trying to stay consistent.”

Dunigan provided some much-needed consistency in the paint for the Ducks during their opening road trip this past weekend. He helped Oregon start off the conference schedule 2-0 — matching its win total from last season — and continue the team’s current six-game winning streak. For his efforts, Dunigan was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week for the first time in his career.

The Ducks currently sit atop the Pac-10 standings tied with the USC Trojans, while the California Golden Bears (9-4, 1-0 Pac-10) follow closely behind in second.

When talking to the media yesterday, Kent made a reference to someone from ESPN saying Oregon is currently “driving the bus” in the Pac-10, which he felt is far too early in the season to make such bold statements.

“There’s 16 more games to go,” Kent said. “There’s so much that can happen. We’re 2-0, (but) it means nothing if we don’t come home and protect our home court.”

Oregon has won eight games at home this season and prior to the Washington trip was 0-2 on the road with losses coming at Portland and Missouri. That made the wins against the Huskies and Cougars that much more vital to the squad’s overall confidence.

“Confidence means a lot to us right now,” sophomore point guard Malcolm Armstead said.
Armstead has been one of the most consistent performers for Kent this year, which isn’t a surprise to Kent.

“Malcolm was the No. 1 junior college player in the country at that position,” Kent said. “He averaged 30 points a game in high school, and yet he was a pass-first point guard at the junior college level with a team that won 32 games and were ranked No. 1 in the country. You know something is going to be good with those kind of credentials coming out.”

Armstead provides another ball handler for the Ducks, something that was often lacking last year, and has shown that he and senior point guard Tajuan Porter can coexist within the offense. Armstead has shied away from solely looking to pass and has been a dangerous scoring threat in both the half and full court offenses.

“With (Tajuan) being on the court, it helps my game out so much because there’s so much attention on him,” Armstead said. “And at times people fall asleep and I’m able to find him and reward him.”

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