I went to the Pape Jam at the Rose Garden on Saturday. First Duck game I've seen live this season. It was honestly just kind of a weird game. Although the game got very close toward the end, there was just never a sense of urgency. Even when Nebraska cut the lead to four, it just never felt that the momentum had changed. I never felt worried that the Ducks were going to blow it. Sure enough, they hit free throws, played some great defense down the stretch, and came up with what is looking like a very good win over a Nebraska team that is going to make some noise this season. Here are my thoughts from the game:
--I was quite disappointed at the atmosphere of the Pape Jam. My only previous Pape Jam experience was against Kansas a few years ago. The Garden sold out, the place was rockin', and the atmosphere was great. This time, even though the announced crowd of over 11,000 was far greater than many previous Pape Jams, it was just really quiet. Felt kind of eerie for a Duck game. All Duck games are a lot of fun, but I'll take a game at Mac Court any day. That being said, now that I live in Portland, the Rose Garden one game a year is a hell of a lot easier to get to. Seems like we could sell the place out once a year.
--Tajuan Porter is fast, fast, fast. He was only 3-12 for the game, but it seemed like he was in every play. He always hustles, never quits on a play, and is clearly one of the leaders on the team. This guy is going to be one of the best players in the country when he is a junior.
--A healthy Bryce Taylor is really, really good. I kept thinking about how he just seemed to disappear last year, and he was never really healthy. Now that he is, we're seeing just how good he really is. His defense is solid. He rebounds phenomenally for a guy his size, and he can still stroke the three.
--People who called Maarty Leunen soft in the offseason should be eating a big, fat plate of crow right now. He faced another premier big man in Aleks Maric, and, again, shut him down. Maric played only five minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, he had only 12 points and six boards all game. And even though Oregon shot like crap again from Mac Court ( 40%), it seemed like every big shot to pull Oregon out of a slump was a Maarty Leunen three pointer. He only hit three, and they were all huge. 15 points and nine boards? I'll take that any day.
--It is clear that Malik Hairston is not fully healthy. He is just not his explosive self. That being said, 80% of Malik Hairston is better than a lot of other players. But he is even less aggressive than he usually is, and he's not going to be a big scorer until he is healthier. And why can't he make his free throws?
--As good as the above players are, Mitch Platt and Ray Schafer are that bad. How have these guys regressed so much? I'd never see anyone airball a layup, until Platt did it in this game. Unbelievable. As Bill Walton would say, throw it down, big man, throw it down. These two, and Adam Zahn as well, will be seeing the bench a lot in Pac-10 play.
--You have to think that if Joevan Catron can start making some shots, he could be a decent backup to spell Maarty for a few minutes.
--Well, with this game in the books, there are five games that the Ducks should win coming up. Hopefully, Chamberlain Iguchi won't play much and will get healthy for the Pac-10. Also it would be nice for the other guys not to have to log so many minutes and rest up for conference play. Get the Stellys, Platts, Schafers, and Akwinukes of the world some PT and give these other guys a bit of a break.
Well, over break I'll be at the Mercer and Portland games, so I'll give you live reports from them. If you are going to a game, especially one that is not on TV, it is encouraged for you to post your game thoughts and observations as a diary.