Men find their rhythm

Ernie Kent could barely contain his enthusiasm. It was like the kid that knows what he's getting for Christmas, and it is the thing he wants the most. After the Oregon Men's team scrimmaged in front of about 150 onlookers at McArthur Court on the campus of the University of Oregon on Friday it was clear to see that what Kent wants is a team that found its rhythm.

"(It) is how quick they got into a rhythm," said Kent of his team's development to this point. "Typically that takes place once you start playing games and this team has found it right now. The key thing is to keep them there because they are in a great rhythm offensively where they really share the ball and things are really clicking for them."

The Men broke up into two squads of five each, the Green with Malik Hairston, Brandon Lincoln, Matt Short, Maarty Leunen and walk-on Arian Stelly playing against the Yellow. The Yellow team was made up of Bryce Taylor, Aaron Brooks, Chamberlain Oguchi, Adam Zahn and newcomer Ivan Johnson. What transpired was an impressive shooting display causing some to ask if there was anyone on the Ducks squad that can't shoot the basketball?

"When you have a team that understands the system and are so unselfish and skilled, you get into a rhythm and that's what we've seen in this team in the last four or five days," said Kent about his team. "The passes are there, the plays are there, the shooting is there, the confidence is there and that's by everybody. Even our walk-ons are shooting the ball well. There are some things we need to do to tighten up defensively, but understand also what we did wasn't bad defense. This is just a terrific offensive team right now that's in a pretty good place."

During the two halves of 16 minutes each playing without with few stoppages, the combined Ducks had a total of six players in double figures and four scoring over 20 points. Hairston was the high point man with 24 points (8-for-14 and 8-for-8 from the free throw line) followed by Brooks (20), Johnson (20), Oguchi (20), Leunen (17), Taylor (13), Zahn (9), Short (9) and Lincoln and Stelly with 8 each. The two squads hit a total of 11 3-point shots and was 29-of-36 from the free throw line.

The Yellow won the scrimmage 82-66.

"You saw 30 minutes of basketball with no subs," Kent reflected. "That was transition basketball, up and down the floor and that's coming on our fifth day of practice right now. They are a team that is really well conditioned."

Hairston is quickly becoming the team leader and he is confident even when being interviewed about his team and the apparent quick development. Hairston was articulate in explaining why the Ducks are jelling quickly together.

"This team is already better than our team at its peak last year," Hairston said matter-of-fact. "Not just this time (today). I think we play better together. We have a better chemistry. A better inside presence and we're sharing the basketball a lot more."

Hairston points out a number of things different this year than last first on defense he thought last year that the team didn't play well defensively. This year there is more discipline and much more hard work in practice and when the offensive side is added in, Hairston believes there are some good things in store.

"This is a great shooting team and can be a great defensive team," observed Hairston. "If we put all the pieces of the puzzle together I think it will be a very good team."

Ivan Johnson had some spectacular moments coming on a blocked shot, and two jams coming on the end of fast breaks. Kent was impressed with Johnson's development to this point considering all the things the transfer has had to accomplish.

"I think Ivan is probably the guy that has had to make the biggest adjustments coming in not knowing the system," Kent said of Johnson's development. "Not knowing Eugene. Not knowing our academics. Not knowing the people in our program and everything. He has come a long way in a short time."

The team seemed to flow easily with the ball and there seemed little in terms of forced shots or passes. No one word describes this particular practice better than rhythm and perhaps that is because the headman has been preaching the word for the last couple weeks.

"In terms of the flow and everything being in rhythm, that's what Coach Kent has been drilling us for the last two weeks," maintained Oguchi. "He (Kent) says there is a rhythm to the game and its up to us to find that rhythm so we can click on all cylinders."

On Friday afternoon before the team takes off for a retreat, a hot shooting team found the rhythm. Oregon will open its season on in an exhibition game with Southern Oregon at McArthur Court.

Ray Schafer was kept out of the scrimmage due being hit in the eye and will be out for a week. Kenny Love is suffering from a sore tendon. Jordan Kent worked on ball handling and agility after the scrimmage was over. He will rejoin the basketball team as soon as football is over.

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