January 26, 2007

Duck! - Here Comes Oregon

The Oregon Ducks have never shy about shooting the ball since head men's hoop coach Ernie Kent has been in rainy Eugene. They score plenty of points and with each game comes a downpour of three-pointers from the Ducks - and this year that downpour translates into a conference-leading 468 attempts on the year [prior to the game against Washington]. Oregon generally makes nine treys per game - and that also leads the conference. Washington State University's men's basketball team, on the other hand, leads the conference in defensive scoring - allowing only 58 points per game - which doesn't leave much room for other scoring if nine three-balls have already been.

But Kent has not had to worry much about these things when playing the Cougars recently. His team usually shows up and they usually win. Make that "always" win since Cougar head coach Tony Bennett has been on campus. In the three years Bennett was riding the pine of the Cougar bench as an assistant to his father Dick, the Ducks went to work and clocked in seven consecutive victories - six in conference play and one in the conference tournament - and last year's losses were about as Jekyll and Hyde-ish as they could get, with the Cougars losing a two-point nail-biter in Pullman and then getting smoked by 30 in Eugene. While that is an impressive run, having that kind of success against a legendary coach such as Dick Bennett has not gone to Kent's head.

"Each year is a different challenge, success in the past doesn't matter," says Kent. "It's already tough to play up there but they have a great home court advantage now."

That is a home-court advantage that was not present last year when Malik Hairston hit two - what else? - three-pointers in the final 12 seconds to pull out a 52-50 win before 5740. The Cougars are expecting more than twice that number of Cougar fans and well-wishers for tomorrow's game and the Ducks will be missing three key contributors to that win. Jordan Kent, Ivan Johnson and Adam Zahn - who accounted for 23 of Oregon's 52 points [with Kent being the leading scorer] while those three also accounted for 19 of the Ducks' 39 rebounds [with Kent leading that category as well].

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