Oregon schools head north

After – perhaps disappointingly - splitting their first two conference road games in Los Angeles last weekend, the 14th-ranked Washington Huskies will look to extend their 15-game home-court winning streak and re-establish some foothold on the early PAC-10 conference lead with three straight home games against their three Northwest rivals.

It won't be an easy task – the Oregon schools are a combined 20-6 (4-2 in league play). And if you think Husky fans are up in arms about not being on television this Thursday, the Duck fans are apoplectic – neither of their contests will be aired this weekend.

OREGON (2-1, 10-2) at #14 WASHINGTON (3-1, 13-2)

Bank of America Arena - Thursday, January 13 7:00 PM (no local TV)

It's been two years in the making, but Aaron Brooks is finally coming home. The 6-foot sophomore from Seattle-Franklin missed both contests last year while recovering from a broken wrist. Brooks is definitely the spark plug that makes the Oregon engine go. "When this system's point guard doesn't perform, it becomes stagnant," says Oregon coach Ernie Kent on Brooks' importance. Over the last five games, Brooks has averaged 22.8 points while hitting 53.3 percent from behind the arc. It's going to be worth the price of admission to see him matched up with the mercurial Nate Robinson.

The young Ducks, who sport five freshmen and six sophomores on their roster (with no seniors), lead the PAC-10 conference as a whole in field-goal shooting with a .507 mark (the Huskies rank number two at .504). Big men Ian Crosswhite (11 ppg), Mitch Platt (.677 FG pct.) and Jordan Kent (.561 pct.) help that mark, but so do true freshmen Malik Hairston (12.7 points, .521 FG) and Maarty Leunen (5.8 pts, .714 FG). Hairston, the much-ballyhooed small forward from Detroit, had a career-best 20 points against Portland – the second-best mark ever for an Oregon freshman.

Bryce Taylor, another true freshman, is emerging as an outside threat. The 6-5 swingman from Encino had a career-best 19 against top-ranked Illinois in Chicago and scored a last-second game-winner in the Ducks' only other "true" road game, an 83-82 victory over Fresno State. Oregon is 7-1 at Mac Court - losing only to UCLA - and is 2-1 in neutral venues.

Though the Ducks have held seven of their opponents to under 40-percent from the floor, this figures to be an up-and-down affair, with both teams combining to average 166 points. Last season the two teams split, both winning at home (with both wins punctuated by uncontested dunks unappreciated by the losers – Andre Joseph in Eugene and Nate Robinson in the rematch in Seattle). Rebounding may be the biggest key – both teams are unbeaten when they win the board battle (Washington 11-0, Oregon 9-0). Conversely, both teams are just 1-2 when they get beat on the glass.

Overall, the Huskies lead the series 174-99, though the Ducks have won three out of the last four.

PROBABLE OREGON STARTERS

F Malik Hairston 6-6 FR (12.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
F Ian Crosswhite 7-0 JR (11.0, 6.3)
C Mitch Platt 6-10 SO (4.1, 2.8)
G Aaron Brooks 6-0 SO (17.0, 3.5, 4.9 APG)
G Bryce Taylor 6-5 FR (11.3, 2.9)
OREGON STATE (2-1, 10-4) at WASHINGTON

Bank of America Arena - Saturday, January 15 7:30 PM (Fox Sports Net)

After an impressive home sweep of the L.A. schools, the Beavers fell short in their PAC-10 road opener, losing for the 12th-consecutive time at Mac Court. If they can get a road win at Washington State on Thursday, coach Jay John's Beavers will be the third consecutive one-loss (in conference) team the Huskies will face on Saturday.

Washington swept Oregon State a year ago – it was last year's game in Corvallis that is considered the turning point of Lorenzo Romar's program. Tre Simmons and Nate Robinson's sandwiched three-point bombs around a pair of OSU free throws in the final six seconds to get the Huskies miraculously to overtime and an eventual 103-99 win. It stopped a 0-5 opening conference wound and started that magical 12-1 run to the PAC-10 and NCAA tourneys.

Senior David Lucas missed Oregon State's first 10 games with an injured big toe, but since his return has averaged 16.5 points. The All-Conference performer was named the PAC-10's Player of the Week when he averaged 19 points in sweep of UCLA and USC. Lucas poured in 49 points in the two games against Washington last season.

One of the PAC-10's best newcomers is 6-10 freshman Sasa Cuic from Croatia. A member of the Croatia under-17 national team, Cuic has been foul-prone but also a presence inside, scoring more than 20 points on three occasions while hitting 85-percent of his free throws. Senior guard J.S. Nash is the Beavers' fill-the-boxscore man, averaging 11 points, four boards, three assists, and hitting 52 percent from three-point range. Nash had 27 in the two games against the Huskies last year. Junior Chris Stephens averages 10.6 points as a sixth man after averaging almost 16 points a year ago.

Junior point guard Jason Fontenet is averaging nearly 10 points per game after sitting out last season. The transfer from New Mexico State has averaged 13.3 points in conference games, and hit for a season-best 20 against Colorado. Another transfer is 6-8 junior Nick DeWitz from Iowa. Due to transfer rules he was ineligible for OSU's first six games, but has averaged 11.5 points in 23 minutes per game since.

Though three-point specialist Angelo Tsagarakis will miss the road trip with an injured shoulder, these do not look to be your ordinary second-tier Beavers. They could make some noise before it's all said-and-done.

PROBABLE OREGON STATE STARTERS

F Sasa Cuic 6-10 FR (13.9, 5.4)
F David Lucas 6-7 SR (6.5, 5.0)
G Lamar Hurd 6-4 JR (2.3, 2.8)
G Jason Fontenet 5-10 JR (9.1, 1.4, 3.6 APG)
G J.S. Nash 6-2 SR (10.6, 3.9)

Dawgman.com Top Stories