Oregon Looks To Keep Postseason Hopes Alive

The Oregon Ducks (15-12, 6-9) travel to Corvallis to take on the Oregon State Beavers (6-21, 0-16) on Sunday, looking to get back on track after a three-game losing streak.

In the second half of the season the Ducks have failed to end opponents' late-game surges, turning the ball over at key moments, failing to get open looks at the basket and giving up too many easy scores in the low post. Last week, the Ducks held double-digit leads in the second half against both USC and UCLA before floundering down the stretch.

Last week's losses likely will mean that Oregon must win the remainder of its regular season games, and at least go to the conference tournament semi-finals, in order to make the NCAA tournament. Any loss in the Ducks' next three games would give them a losing record in Pac-10 play, forcing them to win the Pac-10 tournament in order to be selected to take part in the March Madness festivities.

The two losses may have significantly hampered Oregon's NCAA tournament chances, but the Ducks aren't dwelling on last week's disappointments.

"We've put ourselves in great positions late in games," said Senior Maarty Leunen. "It's just us finishing and making the right plays: getting defensive stops and scoring a couple buckets here and there. It's our mistakes that we've made, so hopefully we can capitalize late in these last three games."

In order for Ducks to get back on track and into the NCAA selection committee's good graces, they are going to have to improve their three-point shooting and commit fewer turnovers for the remainder of the season. During Oregon's three-game skid, it has shot 33.9% (19 of 56) from three-point range and averaged nearly 13 turnovers per contest.

In Oregon and Oregon State's last match-up, the Ducks used a late surge to pull away midway through the second half and win 79-63. With 8:16 to play in the second half, Sophomore Roeland Schaftenaar went to the line with a chance to tie the game up at 57 apiece. Schaftenaar made the first free throw, but missed the second, and the Ducks dominated the rest of the way. Oregon went on a 22-7 run to close out the contest, highlighted by three three-pointers from Tajuan Porter, who led the Ducks with 23 points. Leunen and Bryce Taylor also scored in double-figures, with 12 and 17, respectively.

Oregon State, loser of 17 straight, must get a win in one of its last three games to keep itself from becoming the first team in the Pac-10's 30-year history to go winless in conference play. The Beavers' last win came on December 19th against Northern Colorado.

Although it may be tempting for some to overlook a league-winless Beavers team, Head Coach Ernie Kent knows that his team has to stay focused to get a win at Gil Coliseum.

"I think in this conference anybody is dangerous," said Kent. "I've said all along that when we play Oregon State we get a different basketball game than anybody else. We got a different game here at home and I expect a different game over in Corvallis, as well. A lot of it has to do with a rivalry, where you throw the records out of the window when two teams play like this. So, it's a game that we need to make sure we are ready to play, and be on our A-game."

Kent isn't the only one who doesn't want to give the Beavers their first conference win of the season.

"You never want to be that team that gives a team their first win," Taylor said. "All we've been thinking about this whole week is taking it one game at a time, and that starts with Oregon State."

For Sunday's game, the Ducks will be coming off an 8-day layoff, which Kent, contrary to popular belief, feels is a disadvantage.

"The only thing good in (the 8 days off) is that it's the last time we are going to have off for awhile if we can continue to move forward," said Kent. "Otherwise, you'd like to be playing games and keep moving and stay sharp. We've tried to do some things this week to keep (the players) in shape that will allow them to bounce back on key days, and hopefully we'll be ready to play Sunday night in that late game."

Oregon State leads the all-time series 180-148, but the Ducks have won the last three match-ups.


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