What Lies Ahead…
With 12 games remaining in the regular season, the Oregon Duck’s (13-5, 4-2) need to make up some ground in January if they want a shot at competing for the first PAC-12 title championship.
The good news is the Ducks will finish out the month playing all of their matchups at home, a place where they are 9-2 on the year, against two teams that are currently under .500 in conference play.
First up will be USC (5-13) on Jan. 19, who have struggled all season and have lost their previous six games entering this contest.
In last year’s matchup the Ducks handed the Trojans a 61-51 loss at the Galen Center in a game that saw E.J. Singler put up 11 points and drag down six rebounds.
This year the junior forward is averaging 12.6 PPG and 5.2 RPG, and should go off against a USC defense that is allowing nearly 60 points per contest.
The big key in this one will be containing SC’s Maurice Jones. With little production from the rest of the Trojans’ bench, the Ducks should have no problem zeroing in on Jones.
After the Trojans have come and gone, Oregon will host UCLA (10-7, 3-2), a team they split a pair of games with in 2010.
The first being a 67-59 home loss, but that was without Ducks’ leading scorer and rebounder Joevan Catron, who had missed his third straight game with a strained calf muscle.
And if not for a barrage of 3-pointers late in the second half, Oregon may have walked away unscathed in this one.
The Ducks ended up avenging that loss however, as they dominated UCLA defensively in the second round of the Pac-10 tournament just a few weeks later, holding the Bruins to just 35 percent shooting in the game.
Singler had a big night in this one, netting a game-high 24 points as the Ducks topped the Bruins by nearly 20 points, 76-59.
If the Ducks defensive play is solid against the Bruins this time around, they could seriously take control of this one, but they will need to first box out a very good Bruins rebounding squad.
Finally, the Ducks will host in-state rival Oregon State (11-7, 1-5) who they completed a two-game sweep against in 2010.
With a win over first place Stanford back on Jan 5, Oregon can control their own destiny.
However, they must not waste this home stand against inferior teams if they want a PAC-12 title and invite to the big dance.