Ducks The "Hunted Now"

EUGENE, Ore.,- Oregon has the opportunity for its first 6-0-conference start since 1926 when they take the court Wednesday versus the Washington State Cougars. That's quite a start for a team picked to finish seventh in the conference in the Pac-12 Media Poll and who lost nearly 60 percent of its scoring from a year ago.

EUGENE, Ore.,- Oregon has the opportunity for its first 6-0-conference start since 1926 when they take the court Wednesday versus the Washington State Cougars. That's quite a start for a team picked to finish seventh in the conference in the Pac-12 Media Poll and who lost nearly 60 percent of its scoring from a year ago.

The key to the unprecedented start, which has the Ducks ranked 16th in the country, is simple, according to senior E.J. Singler, the players know their roles and stick to them.

"It's the best team togetherness that we've probably had since I've been here and that's why we're winning. You've got to have that in college basketball," he said Monday.

With so much of last year's team gone to graduation or transferred, for this team to have melded together so quickly required a shared mentality, something remarkable considering the newcomers include players from Las Vegas, Houston, and Iran.

"It's just the right fit, the right players coming in. No one came in wanting to score the most points or whatever. It's just really about the win. We've been talking about that all year, not really caring who's doing what. It's just if we get the win that's all that matters," Singler said.

As evidence for that chemistry, consider these facts. Six players on the team average between eight and 11 points per game. On a team that scores at 76 point per game clip they've had just had four 20-point individual scoring nights. Five players have attempted between 133 and 179 field goals this year.

For their success to continue, perhaps those numbers will need to hold true. But just as each individual has developed their role with the team, the team itself might have to occupy a different one.

"Everyone is going to be coming for us now. We're not going to be the ones hunting other teams, we'll be the ones hunted now," said guard Johnathan Loyd.

The Ducks (16-2, 5-0) will be the Cougars' (10-8, 1-4) prey Wednesday, and for Washington State to bring Oregon down, it will take the deft shooting of center Brock Motum.

Motum is arguably the conference's most skilled post player, utilizing his versatile inside-and-out game to average 19.1 points per game while shooting at a solid rate, considering the 15 shots he attempts per game.

"I've always thought Motum was one of the most underrated players in the country. He can do a lot of things on the court. He's a really difficult player to defend just because of his size and strength and he just does a lot for Washington State," Singler said.

In last year's victories over Washington State, it was Singler's job to lock down the Australian-lefty, but with Motum focusing more on his interior play, Singler isn't sure whose task it will be to match up with the Cougars' star.

"I don't know if I'll be guarding him this year, he's playing the five," Sinlger said. "Tony will probably have to guard him.

"We're really going to have to guard his left hand, because he's really good on that hand. We've got to make him use his right and make him shoot difficult shots that he's not used to."

With Motum in check, the Cougars would lean on Mike Ladd and DeVonte Lacy, both adept scorers, but only mediocre perimeter shooters.

The Ducks and Cougars face off Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena. Jim Watson and Ernie Kent will have the call for the Pac-12 Network.


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