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This time, Ducks look tough enough

On College Hoops
by: DENISE FARWELL, Bryce Taylor takes a shot in the win over Nebraska on Saturday as Oregon continues its rise to the 
Pac-10 season.

The Oregon Ducks face five very winnable home games before the Pac-10 season starts Dec. 30 at Oregon State.

'We can't fall asleep at Mac Court,' says coach Ernie Kent, whose team started the five-game string Monday against Bethune-Cookman. 'The only thing we've done is stay on pace with UCLA, Washington and even Arizona.'

If all goes as planned, the Ducks should be 12-0 - and nationally ranked? -going into the OSU game. So far, the Kent doubters have very little room to complain about him and his coaching, and the coach who once said the Ducks simply needed to mature looks pretty prophetic.

'Last year, we were an immature basketball team,' Kent says. 'They are more mature, physically tougher and mentally tougher.'

Says Bryce Taylor: 'We have a lot to prove as a team. We have underachieved the past two years.'

Oregon closed out Nebraska 68-56 last weekend in the Rose Garden to move to 7-0.

It's a group of mainly juniors and seniors, with freshmen Tajuan Porter and Joevan Catron chipping in. Porter's play frees up Aaron Brooks to do his 2-guard things, and Catron has helped solidify the middle, along with Maarty Leunen.

'We still haven't got into a rhythm shooting the ball,' Kent says.

Some things to note:

Going into the Bethune-Cookman game, Porter had slowed down from his hot three-game start but was still shooting .500 (31 of 62) from 3-point land, and he and Brooks present quickness problems in the backcourt.

Through seven games, Leunen was averaging 11.7 points and 10.4 rebounds and has been playing great low-post defense. In addition, the Ducks have been playing good help defense in the post.

And the Ducks had a plus-4.3 rebounding margin, while holding opponents to .418 (.223 from 3-point land) shooting.

• Don't look now, but Portland State is 7-3 overall after Sunday's 72-63 win at San Jose State.

Center Scott Morrison had 19 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and three steals in a career-high 36 minutes, a week before what should be his biggest test of the preseason. The Vikings play at Washington on Saturday; the Huskies feature 7-foot freshman post Spencer Hawes.

That game also will mark the return to Seattle of coach Ken Bone, who served as an assistant UW coach before leaving for Portland State.

Fox Sports Net will televise the game 7 p.m. Saturday.

• There won't be a Joe Wolfinger sighting at the PSU-UW game. The 7-foot Portland native and former Aloha High player could be out for his redshirt freshman season with a foot stress fracture. But McNary's Phil Nelson has been playing ample minutes for the Huskies.

• Who's been part of that 9-1 Washington State start? None other than former Jefferson standout Mac Hopson. He scored 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting in WSU's recent win over Idaho. He's averaging 24 minutes a game. … Hopson's former junior college, North Idaho College, now sports another Jeff player: 6-8 Brian Morris, who transferred from Southern Methodist. In fact, in a recent two-game series with College of Southern Idaho, Morris went against former 6-8 Jeff player Kevin Ford, who transferred to CSI from New Mexico State. Morris had 30 points in one game and totaled 43 points and 14 rebounds; Ford had 21 points and 18 rebounds in the games. … Lincoln's Omar Leary and LaTravis Turner returned this season to Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo., and they have helped NJC go 12-1. … Warner Pacific continues its hot start, moving to 10-0 after beating Whitman 92-85. Josh Jackson had 24 points, Scott O'Gallagher 22 and Jalonta Martin 20 points and eight rebounds. The Knights are ranked No. 7 in NAIA Division II. … The Portland Pilots (2-9) have two road games coming up, including Dec. 19 at Notre Dame. … Sunday's Oregon State-Louisiana State game at Gill Coliseum can be seen on Fox Sports Net at 5 p.m. … The UP women continue to improve, moving to 7-4 after last weekend's 75-70 win against Portland State. Freshmen Laiken Dollente (32 points) and Laura Thomas (18 points, nine rebounds) starred.

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