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Preview: Ducks Hope to Huck Fuskies, Pick Up First Pac-10 Win

The Oregon men's basketball squad continues its search for a conference win tonight at Mac Court against the Washington Huskies (11-4 overall, 2-1 Pac-10). Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PST. The Ducks (6-10, 0-4) are coming off a rough weekend in the desert, losing handly to both Arizona and Arizona State.  The Wildcats picked up their first Pac-10 win, prevailing 67-52 last Thursday, followed by a 78-56 blowout by the Sun Devils in Tempe two nights later.

But the biggest headline to emerge from the weekend had little to do with basketball: a confrontation between senior guard Tajuan Porter and head coach Ernie Kent. The incident resulted in Porter sitting out the entire second half of the ASU game, but the flaring tempers are also a sign that the Ducks aren't happy with how the season is going. Although Kent and Porter have settled their differences, one thing is crystal clear: Oregon needs a win. Badly.

And who better to get that win from than rival Washington? The Huskies are coming off a brutal triple-overtime home loss to Cal, bringing their nine-game winning streak to a screeching halt. In football, when a team follows a tough loss or a big win with a match-up against an underachieving, hungry team in search of their first win, we call it a trap game. Well, Ducks fans, I'm delighted to inform you that Oregon is Washington's first trap game of the season. Whether Oregon can battle back from last week's turmoil remains to be seen, but a home game against a reeling rival isn't a bad situation to be in. It doesn't hurt that Oregon will hold a pre-game ceremony for former "Kamikaze Kid" Greg Ballard , who was inducted into the Pac-10 Hall of Honor this week.

Oregon's Keys to the Game

  1. Rebound.  Rebound.  Rebound.
    So, yeah, I know rebounding is, like, the most cliche "key" to a game, but if there were ever a time to include it on this list, it's against Washington. The Huskies, led by senior Jon Brockman's conference leading 13.3 rebounds per game, are tops in the Pac-10 in rebounding margin (+9.3) and boards per game (40.3). The Ducks are seventh and sixth in those categories, respectively. In other words, PUT A BODY ON SOMEONE!
  2. Get It Goin' Early
    According to the U of O athletic department's press release, Oregon is 3-0 this season when shooting over 50% and 4-1 when shooting better from the field than its opponent. Go figure. But a more interesting fact from the same release is this: The Ducks are 5-1 this year when leading at the half. I understand these aren't groundbreaking numbers, but the halftime-lead stat certainly points to Oregon's inexperience. Because the Ducks aren't battle-tested, taking an early lead is even more crucial. In addition, getting Joevan Catron involved in the offense early will help to develop the inside game, opening up the outside for our sharpshooters to roam.
  3. Contain Isaiah Thomas
    No, I'm not talking about the former NBA star, I'm talking about the Huskies' freshman phenom, who's averaging 19.7 and 3.7 assists per game. The obvious Washington player to watch is Brockman, but we don't have an answer for him at this point, so we'll need to cut our losses and focus on slowing down Thomas. If we can keep him well under his averages, it should take the Huskies out of their game.