Just looking at their current win-loss records, one would think the No. 24-ranked Oregon Ducks (7-1) should not have too big a problem taking on the unranked Boise State Broncos (6-4) Saturday in Boise (5 p.m. on CBS Sports Network).
Taking a closer look, one sees that three of the Broncos’ losses came at the hands of No. 1 Michigan State and No. 13 Arizona. Boise State played with the Spartans, losing by just 10 (77-67), and in their two losses to the Wildcats, the Broncos played even with them most of the way.
In many ways the Ducks and Broncos are similar. Oregon went 26-10 last season under head coach Dana Altman, now in his 6th year with the Ducks. Under head coach Leon Rice, also in his 6th season, Boise State won the Mountain West and had an overall record of 25-9. Rice began his collegiate career as a graduate assistant coach at Oregon in 1989, and then served two seasons as a full-time assistant coach for the Ducks under Oregon head coach Don Monson.
Like Oregon, who lost their best player due to graduation (Joseph Young), the Broncos are without last season’s star, Derrick Marks. A look at this year’s scoring and the Ducks and Broncos are almost identical with four starters averaging double figures … all in the 10.5-14 points per game range. So, no one player is dominating the scoring for either team.
While BSU has four scorers in double figures, led by 6-6 Anthony Drmic (14.6), the Ducks have five in double figures. This figure includes Tyler Dorsey (14.4), who is “day to day” but may not play due to what appeared to be a serious injury sustained in the loss to UNLV last week.
Dillon Brooks (14.0) has been a very consistent all-around player for Oregon so far this season. He usually has his hands on the ball when the pressure is on.
Coming off a tough loss to the Runnin’ Rebels a week ago, the Ducks beat Navy, 67-47, Monday at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. Despite the final 20-point margin, Oregon struggled at times with the pesky Midshipmen. The game could have well been much closer if not for Navy’s horrible shooting performance.
It will be a tough environment for the Ducks at Taco Bell Arena in Boise Saturday night, and the Broncos have momentum having edged Loyola Marymount, 67-66, Wednesday in a thriller at Boise.
The key to Oregon winning could very well be the play of senior Elgin Cook. Cook committed 8 turnovers against Navy, and so far this season has not been the scoring threat (11.8 ppg) he was last season. In the paint he often travels or is called for charging, habits he has struggled with in all of his 3 years at Oregon.
Altman addressed Cook’s play on Thursday:
“Elgin’s pressing a little bit. He’s trying to do too much. He wants to do what it takes to win, but he’s trying too hard. There’s that fine line there. You’ve got to be aggressive, but you can’t try too hard. His efficiency just isn’t as good as it was a year ago. Last year he was our most efficient offensive player…even with Joe (Young). He’ll bounce back. He’ll figure it out. He’s a good player, a good kid. He wants to win.”
Oregon’s defense has improved, evident in the second half against UNLV and holding Navy under 50 points.
The defense must continue to be very active at Boise State, while Altman has larger concerns about the offense, particularly without Dorsey at 100%. He said that freshman Kendall Small, Brooks and Dwayne Benjamin will all need to help at guard in Dorsey’s place.
“We’re going to have to have some guys pick it up,” Altman said. Turnovers are hurting our transition game, give up 2 or 3 layups. The ball’s not moving good enough. Our ball movement’s got to improve. We have too many guys catching and holding it, trying to make a play every time. It’s my job to get them to move it.”
Saturday’s game at Boise State is not a “must” win for the Ducks, but in would be a great win considering Dorsey’s condition, as well as two other starters, Jordan Bell and Dylan Ennis still being sidelined. There is an outside chance the Dorsey and even Bell might play, but neither would be at full strength.
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Top Photo by Gary Breedlove