Back for the last time
After a season to forget last year, 2009-2010 is already shaping up to be a better one. The Oregon men’s basketball team is fresh off its first sweep of the Washington schools on the road since 1999-2000.
The team is 10-4 overall and already has more wins than last season, and they have tied their conference wins (2) from last year.
The word that has been floating around practice this week to describe what it meant for the Ducks was “confidence,” as players see the two road wins as motivation for the rest of the season.
“It was a big confidence-booster for us going into the weekend,” senior guard Tajuan Porter said.
“Confidence means a lot to us right now,” sophomore guard Malcolm Armstead said. “We have everyone back and healthy except for Joevan (Catron), and everyone is playing with a lot of confidence. And when you’re playing with a lot of confidence, it’s hard for any team to stop us.”
It’s a wonder what two big-time wins on the road can do for a program that last year didn’t win a single conference game away from McArthur Court. But going into this weekend, the focus is on in-state rival Oregon State, which travels to Eugene to play at McArthur Court for the last time before the Ducks move to Matthew Knight Arena next winter.
The Beavers (6-8, 0-2) have been a disappointment so far this season to many. Inconsistency and lack of a scorer to help the team have been problems for them. However, the biggest problem might have been revealed just this week.
Oregon State was blown out in Corvallis on Wednesday night 99-48 by Seattle University to hand the team its third straight loss and perhaps the worst loss of the season.
Despite this, the Beavers have been able to rebound from a historic losing season two years ago, and second-year head coach Craig Robinson has the Beavers on the rise, Oregon head coach Ernie Kent said.
“The first thing that jumps out at you is that they’re just a much better basketball team,” Kent said. “(Craig Robinson) has them in a better place. He did a very good job of changing their mentality.”
The Beavers are led by forward Calvin Haynes, who is averaging 11.8 points per game, and forward Seth Tarver (11.7 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game). With big center Roeland Schaftenaar in the middle, OSU’s 1-3-1 trap defense is a handful.
“That 1-3-1 is real tough to play against,” Porter said. “They do a really good job at it, and we have to find a way to attack it like we did last year.”
Although it presents a challenge, sophomore center Michael Dunigan said the trap is nothing new. The Ducks saw it last year and were able to beat it in Mac Court for the team’s first Pac-10 win of the season. The key is to get the ball out of the hoop quickly, Dunigan said.
“In the beginning, we just want to get out and run before they can even set it up,” Dunigan explained.
The first installment of the Civil War this season for the men is also going to be special because former Duck and NBA star Terrell Brandon will have his old jersey retired. Brandon was the 1991 Pac-10 Player of the Year and still holds Oregon’s single-season scoring average record with 26.6 points per game.
“It’s going to be a great day for Terrell Brandon to come back and be honored,” Kent said. “It’s so very deserving for him.”
Kent also said the environment Sunday will be special because of it being the last time Oregon State plays at Mac Court.
“There have been a lot of Civil Wars, as a player, as a coach,” Kent said. “Each game is going to be the last something and it’s going to be emotional because this building is an unbelievable place to play and there are a lot of memories here.”
But the season won’t be over after Sunday at 7:30, and Tajuan Porter knows the key to keeping this redemption season going. “You just got to win,” he said. “Just win.”
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