The Stanford Cardinal (13-2, 2-1) will attempt to become the first team this season to escape McArthur Court with a victory when they invade Eugene to take on the University of Oregon Ducks (11-4, 2-1) and head coach Ernie Kent in a rare Sunday afternoon game.
Stanford (#23) can gain a coveted Pac-10 road sweep as they enter the contest coming off an easy 66-46 victory over the Oregon State Beavers (6-9, 0-3). Still, the Cardinal will have to battle hard to defeat the Ducks, who lead the Pac-10 with 83.1 points per game (16th-best in the country), on their home court. It will be a classic offense vs. defense match-up as the Stanford defense has given up only 56.1 points per game, third-best in the conference.
In their win over OSU in Corvallis, Stanford came out on fire, jumped to a 15-2 point advantage and was never challenged by their hapless hosts. With the large lead, Stanford had the luxury of playing inconsistently, a luxury they won't have against Oregon.
Oregon's Season to Date:
Oregon returned four starters from its 2006-2007 team, which went 29-8, won the Pac-10 tournament, and advanced to the Elite Eight before losing 85-77 to eventual NCAA champion Florida. Despite a respectable 11-4 record, the 2007-2008 season has been a disappointment as the Ducks were ranked #12 by the AP and #13 by ESPN/USA Today in the preseason polls.
The U. of O opened the season with four easy wins before suffering a 99-87 defeat at the hands of surprising St. Mary's, where Kent coached from 1991-1997. Oregon rebounded to win its next four games, including an 80-77 triumph at Kansas State (then ranked #25) and a 75-64 victory over Utah at the Rose Garden in Portland.
Ranked #16 in the country and standing at 8-1, Oregon traveled to Nebraska, only to lose 88-79 in overtime to the Cornhuskers (who defeated ASU earlier on the season and now boast a remarkable record of 11-2). Seven days later, little-known Oakland shocked Oregon with a 68-62 upset when the Ducks visited the small Michigan school.
Oregon closed the pre-conference season with an 81-73 win over Mt. St. Mary's before dropping its Pac-10 opener to ASU by a score of 62-54 in Tempe.
The usually explosive Oregon offense had been stymied in its losses to Oakland and ASU. For comparison, Oregon's third-worst offensive performance this season came against Utah when the Ducks still managed to score 75 points.
On Thursday, Oregon shot an impressive 10-21 from three point territory in its 79-70 win over UC Berkeley in a game which featured the two highest-scoring teams in the conference. The victory over the Golden Bears improved the Ducks' home record to 7-0 this season.
Oregon's Probable Starting Lineup:Since forward Joevan Catron suffered an injury prior to the Arizona State game, Kent has opted to use a starting lineup consisting of four guards and one forward. Slumping sophomore Tajuan "Not a Stout" Porter, a talented 5'6" guard, was removed from the starting lineup for the Arizona game and played just 15 minutes against Cal.
Kamyron Brown has started six games and returned to the starting lineup after Catron went out to injury. He has started the last three games, starting with the Pac-10 opener vs. Arizona State. Brown has averaged 24.6 minutes per game and has shot 45.3% from the field and 31.8% from three-point territory.
Bryce "I'm no Chuck" Taylor has started 13 games and has averaged 33.8 minutes per game. He has shot 46.4% from the field, 37.7% for three, and leads the team with an 81.1% free throw percentage.
Churchill "Downs" Odia has started only the last two games, replacing the struggling Tajaun Porter. He has shot well in limited attempts, going 6-13 (46.2%) from the field and 5-11 (45.5%) from three this season. He has averaged just 9.8 minutes per game, but did play 17 minutes against Cal. For comparison, 6'8" junior reserve forward Frantz Dorsainvil played 23 minutes while Porter played 15 minutes in that game.
Malik Hairston leads the team in three-point percentage at 51.7%, blocks with 14, and steals with 13. He has shot 56.4% from the field, second-best on the team.
It's no surprise Maarty Leunen, the team's best player in the paint, has the highest total rebounds on the team with 154, 59 ahead of Joevan Catron who is second with 95. He also leads the team with 76 free throws attempted, making 57 (75.0%). He is the only player to have started all 15 games this season.
Should Kent try to add size to the lineup to try to match the Lopez twins, Dorsainvil (4.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 9.2 MPG) and 6'10" center Mitch Platt (1.4 PPG, 0.7 RPG, 6.1 MPG) could receive additional playing time.
Tajuan Porter will likely lead the team in minutes off the bench. Porter, who has started 13 games, has shot 38.7% from the field and an unremarkable 29.7% from outside, disappointing the coaching staff and fans alike. Porter set the Oregon freshman scoring record last season, adding 512 points and becoming the first freshman to break the 500 point mark.
Keys to the Game:
Take advantage of Oregon's lack of height, but don't force too many passes down low. With Oregon's starting lineup consisting of four guards and one forward, Stanford will have a significant height advantage. With the Ducks' speed, however, ill-advised and forced passes to the Lopez twins could lead to turnovers.
Frustrate the Fowls with Defense A low-scoring game would be to the advantage of Stanford. Oregon's latest two losses were low-scoring affairs, showing that a smothering defense can stymie the Ducks. If Oregon finds and successfully attacks vulnerabilities in Stanford's defense, the Cardinal will be in trouble since they lack the offensive firepower to keep up with the Ducks. Fred Washington, an expert defender, could play a determining role for Stanford.
Kibbles and Bits:Stanford and Oregon split last season's meetings, with the Ducks prevailing 66-59 at McArthur Court and the Cardinal dominating 88-69 at Maples.
Brook Lopez averaged 16 points and 7.5 rebounds against Oregon last year, including a 20-point performance in the win at Maples.
Ernie Kent, who was an assistant coach at Stanford from 1989-1991, has the second-longest tenure among Pac-10 coaches. He is in his 11th season at Oregon, only trailing UC Berkley's Ben Braun, who is in his twelfth year.
YCF Prediction:Oregon's lack of a front court forces the Ducks to attempt many shots from the perimeter. Strong perimeter defense from Stanford shuts down Oregon's offensive attack. Oregon's defense tries to hack at the Lopez twins down low, who wisely kick the ball outside. Anthony Goods and a reemerging Law Hill take advantage with timely three-pointers to give Stanford enough offense to win 61-57. We smoke these guys!
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