While the football team is stinking it up, the Duck hoops team showed big heart in their overtime win at Rice. Really, the Ducks played well. Defensively, they looked really sharp. They were hustlng. They were getting the boards. But they couldn't get a bucket for their lives--until the final 1:30 of the game, when they were lights out.
We all know that not since the days of Luke and Luke has a Duck team been able to pull out wins when they weren't shooting well. And we all know that under Ernie the first road game has always been a major pitfall for the Ducks. Well, they ran into both, and came away winners. I mean, down nine with 1:30 to go? Sure, they got lucky that Rice missed some free throws, but unlike last years' team, they never gave up, and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Aaron Brooks was the star this game, as he was the only Duck that could find the bucket, getting 30 of the Ducks' 79 points. Tajuan Porter and Maarty Leunen each chipped in 15. The Ducks won despite shooting only 37%--and the vast majority of the game was way uglier than that. Props to the Ducks for pulling it out, its time to get ready for Georgetown, a mad top 15 team coming off a loss to Old Dominion. Georgetown is huge, and gave us fits at the pit last year.
I've now seen two basketball games on TV (PSU and Rice), and listened to most of the Irvine game on the radio. I am impressed by the chemistry and unselfishness of this team, which seems much better than last year. Champ, Bryce, Maarty, Tajuan, or Aaron could be your star on any given night, and they don't really seem to mind sharing the spotlight. Lets hope that continues whan Malik comes back from injury.
If you haven't yet seen Tajuan Porter, he is really, really good. He's got a great shot, and is good at creating space for himself. I am very impressed by his rebounding ability for such a little guy. Bryce has been playing a lot of power forward, and doing it well despite the size. He had a double-double today, and seems quicker without the Sideshow Bob hair (okay, so he's actually healthy this year). When this team goes small and uptempo (and are hitting their shots), they are really, really good. But, as shown by tonight, they are talented enough and gritty enough defenisively to keep them in games when the shot is not falling--big difference from last year.
On the negative side, going big is just not an option with this team. Adam Zahn, Mitch Platt, and Ray Shafer, are continuing the tradition of really bad Ernie Kent big men. They are just useless on the floor. For example, Platt had an open layup and couldn't even hit rim. This does scare me about this team, how will they match up against bigger teams? Georgetown, who the Ducks play next, is particularly big, and will be a matchup nightmare for Oregon. We will learn a lot from that game.
In any case, the Ducks passed the first big test today, which is more than they've done the past few seasons. If they keep up their early play, they will be contending for a return to the NCAA's this year. If the heartbreaker at Vanderbilt set the negative tone for last year, hopefully this gut-wrenching win will set a positive vibe for this season. As this game showed, work hard, and as a team, and good things will find a way to happen. The next test is to do it again. If they beat Georgetown, we can really start to get excited.
From this point on, there will be 5 questions, previews, and open threads for all basketball games. I am finally adjusting to my new schedule.