December Big Practice Month For Ducks

After playing eight games in 22 days, the Oregon men's basketball team's schedule will slow down over the next month, giving the Ducks an opportunity to sharpen things up through practice and evaluation.

EUGENE, Ore.,- Oregon (7-1) plays a one-game a week schedule over the next two, playing Idaho State this Saturday and Nebraska the following Saturday. It fits nicely as well for the players course schedule, as the team faces finals this week before an academic break that carries into the first week of January.

"This is my favorite time of the year, this kind of break," said senior E.J. Singler. "We're trying to get better with the time that we have off."

"This is a big month for us, from today until January 6 (start of Pac-12 play) is big for us, mostly in practice," said head coach Dana Altman.

Altman hopes to develop a concrete rotation prior to the beginning of conference play. With five players averaging in double digit scoring and a sixth closing in, depth works both in their favor as well as against it.

"Knowing that a lot of people can score, that's hard to defend. Other teams are going to have to prepare for that and not know who is going to go off that night," Singler said.

What it also means, is that players who currently play big minutes (ten players average nine or more a game), will fight to keep them and that fight be an ongoing one.

"It's earn your spot. When you have this kind of depth every practice is evaluation," Altman said.

Consistency will be an integral part of that evaluation, especially the contrast from practice to games.

"I just thing some guys think they can turn it on and off and I just don't think they can," Altman said. "You tell me that they're' good game players, then they're pretty good practice players."

Where Altman has been most disappointed is on the defensive side of the ball, where he has seen great energy over stretches followed by lulls of inexertion.

"I thought by now we'd have a better understanding defensively," Altman said. "I don't think I set the standard too high. I'm little disappointed where we are."

The standard for this team's ends certainly isn't low, Singler reiterated again Wednesday that this is the "best team" he's been on, also stating that many of his career goals have yet to be met.

"I'm going to put everything into it to make it a good one [season]," he said. "I'm just working to those goals each and every day."

One of those goals is likely reaching the NCAA tournament, a feat that the team has yet to meet in his four year-career at Oregon. As the sole four-year player on the team, Singler has taken on a leadership role that is unmatched by his teammates. With their respect and their ears, he's explained the value that the next month provides.

"I've been preaching early on that the pre-season is huge for postseason play. Even losing one game can take out or chances of the postseason. They've done a great job with it and we just need to continue to play as big as we can," he said.

Singler, who missed the first few weeks of practice as well as the first exhibition game with a knee tendinitis, is working towards reaching optimal conditioning, something that has been long-developing.

"A week or two ago I wasn't even close to being in game shape," he said. "I haven't really taken any days off. I'm pretty close to it now."

Also on the injury front, sophomore guard Willie Moore has practiced each of the past two days, leading Altman to believe he'll be ready for Saturday's game. Moore had missed the last two games with a sprained ankle.

The Ducks and the Idaho State Bengals play Saturday at 3:00 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena. Mark Neely and Ernie Kent will be on the call for the Pac-12 Network.

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