Ducks Keep Streak Alive at 13

Corvallis, Ore. – The Oregon Ducks kept the streak going by winning their 13th game of the season, 76-73 on the road over the feisty Oregon State Beavers (8-6, 0-1). The win was the closest of the season for the Ducks and gave them the first Pac-10 victory in the conference season. Junior Bryce Taylor led all scoring with 22 points.

(PHOTO) Bryce Taylor (4) elevates for two of his game high 22 points in Oregon's 76-73 victory over Oregon State at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Oregon on December 30, 2006. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

Oregon, playing without Malik Hairston, shot 46.3 percent overall on a 25-of-54 effort and withstood a hot shooting Beaver team that finished at 51.7 percent (30-of-58) and it was done with great defensive intensity at key moments of the contest. The Beavers did not help themselves by shooting a chilly 57.1 percent (8-for-14) from the free throw line, and the Ducks superior athleticism accounted for 11 steals compared the OSU's eight. Rebounding was even as the Ducks corralled 30 missed shots while the Beavers grabbed 32 misses.

Bryce Taylor, as he has been during the season, was the difference maker by dropping in 22 points, and at times looked as though he could score at will. Hitting 12 points in the first half, Taylor came back in the second half and hit 10 more on a combination of drives, 3-point shooting and acrobatic maneuvers taking complete control of the game. He also had team high nine rebounds. Taylor's play over the season has made him a difference maker but the clue to his success is about attitude.

"I try to look at myself as a leader and upperclassman," Taylor said of his performance. "I take a lot of pride in that role because the younger guys look to me as to how things should be done. I try to do things the right way everyday whether it is in practice. I try to lead us in every single drill and try to be in the best condition I can."

The Ducks success in the game according to their head coach, Ernie Kent was attributed to better conditioning that allowed strong legs for jump shooting and converting gifts at the free throw line, but more importantly the energy to sustain the intense defensive pressure.

"There is no question about it," Kent said about his team's physical condition has been a key factor. " They (Oregon) are a well conditioned basketball team."

Chamberlain Oguchi and Tajuan Porter played extensive minutes against Oregon State. Malik Hairston hopefully is available next week against USC and UCLA but the Ducks have faced more health problems than Kent would like. Joevan Catron missed time during the fall camp and the early part of the season while Chamberlain Oguchi missed a couple of weeks with a sprained ankle. Fortunately the rest of his team has been able to pick up the slack because of the great physical condition they are in and Kent is ready to see his team back at full speed and health.

"We've yet to be healthy this year," admitted Kent. "I'm looking forward to that day."

One other thing that might be different this season than last is that in a close, nail-biting finish like the game today in Corvallis, the Ducks seemed very calm and unshaken. This confidence is due to a maturity level the team has realized.

"There is always pressure in a game but us juniors and seniors have been through this in close games," commented Maarty Leunen on how the Ducks closed out the contest against the Beavers. "We just have to stick to how we play the game, be confident and know we can win."

While the Ducks went into halftime leading 41-34 and managed to build as much as a nine-point lead during the second half, the Beavers would not go away. In fact during the first half OSU built an 11-point lead, the largest deficit the Ducks have faced all season. The Beavers, showing a more talented team than their record would indicate, were led by Marcel Jones' 16 points and 10 rebounds. Sasa Cuic also had 16 and played nearly the entire second half with four fouls. Josh Tarver added 15 while Wesley Washington had 11 and Kyle Jeffers contributed 10. OSU's Jay John showed some nerves of steel keeping Cuic on the floor for so much of the time in the second half, but it worked out as the big man avoided his disqualifying fifth foul.

While Taylor led the way with 22, Leunen chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds. Aaron Brooks turned in another solid performance with 13 points and Oguchi had 12.

Any win on the road in the Pac-10 is big and for the Ducks today it is another step in recovering the respect many lost because of a team that had underachieved last season. This year the Ducks continue to show improvement in their approach to the game and the confidence of this team continues to improve. Despite the fact the Ducks are generally out-manned in the post position, Oregon has used some savvy play by veterans like Leunen and Adam Zahn to out maneuver the opposition with quick feet, smart positioning and what is becoming more and more a theme for this season – better conditioning.

Conditioning, leadership and confidence seems to be the trademark for the 2006-07 Ducks at least through the first 13 games of the season. Next week though a larger challenge looks as the nation's No. 1 team, UCLA comes to town next Saturday and the Ducks will need every bit of those traits to be successful.

Oregon takes the court again next Thursday at home against USC.

Official Box Score from www.goducks.com.

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