What an enigma Brian Jackson is.

At times, Oregon State's 6-9 forward resembles the nationally recruited prize the Beavers hoped they had landed three years ago. At other times, he joins the all-Casper basketball team Ñ poof, he disappears, usually because of foul trouble.

The Beavers are going only as far as Jackson can take them, with all due respect to fellow forward Philip Ricci. Jackson gives OSU an all-important second option to score, after Ricci, and scoring will be the Beavers' recurring challenge.

Coach Ritchie McKay says '85 percent' of what OSU does offensively goes through Ricci and Jackson, which means the Beavers are committed to being patient and pounding the ball into Ricci, or letting Jackson try to score with a jumper or drive.

The Beavs generally slow the ball down and work for shots in half-court sets, put the clamps on their perimeter shooters (except Adam Masten) and pull in the reins on the fast break.

So this week, an area of concern probably will be Jackson's propensity to foul. He has 54 in 16 games, fouling out of four. In games he hasn't fouled out, he averages nearly three fouls. He fouled out 11 times last year.

The Beavers were making a surge, and Jackson hit three buckets in a row against Stanford last week when he Ñ and Ricci Ñ went to the bench with four fouls. By the time Jackson returned (and fouled out), the Beavers were on their way to a 19-point loss.

Yet on Saturday, Jackson scored 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting against Cal. He averages 13 points and shoots 56 percent from the field but plays only 26 minutes a game. The fouls take him out of the game, Ricci says.

'He has to work on (not fouling) in practice,' Ricci says. 'Maybe learn how to move his feet better.'

Jimmie Haywood takes the suggestion one step further, intimating that McKay needs to get tougher in practice.

'When you don't get fouls called in practice, you don't know what to expect in the games,' he says.

Tighter practices needed? 'Yes,' Ricci says.

Jackson, from Class 2A Knappa High, appears healthy after last season, when he played despite a fracture in his left foot for the final 13 games. His scoring average dipped to 10 points a game, although the Beavers played the whole season shorthanded and barely gave Jackson rest.

Jackson worked extensively in the offseason on his strength, stamina, balance and footwork. McKay told the Corvallis Gazette Times, 'I don't want to say he's the $6 million man, but his bionics are better.'

Says Jackson: 'I'm a much better player than I was last year.'

We'll see whether he can stay in games to prove it.

Surging Ducks

OK, everything Oregon coach Ernie Kent promised seems to be coming true. The signs are encouraging for the Ducks: a dominating 10-game home win streak, complementary players at each position, Luke Ridnour emerging as the Pacific-10 Conference's next great point guard and the Ducks sitting atop the Pac-10 in scoring, scoring margin, field-goal shooting, 3-point shooting, free-throw shooting, assists and assist/turnover ratio.

In addition, the Ducks (12-4, 5-1 Pac-10) should waltz through their next three road games, at Oregon State on Saturday, at Washington on Jan. 24 and at Washington State on Jan. 26. Those games will come after they pad their home-court stats tonight against Willamette.

The concerns? UCLA and USC, who have post players Dan Gadzuric and Sam Clancy, respectively, could give the Ducks fits. Oregon post Brian Helquist, Chris Christoffersen's backup, has not been healthy lately.

A special dunk

Among dunkers, UO's Freddie Jones must be among the best in the college game. Jones 'posterized' an Arizona State player, a guy who was trying to take a charge, on his best dunk of the year. It could be his best ever, although he has received some alley-oops from Ridnour and downed some memorable slams.

'The best ones are the dunks in practice, which nobody sees,' Ridnour says.

Jones can't name one dunk as his favorite. So, he recalls his first.

'Eighth grade, playing in a Yakima AAU tournament. At the end of the game, five seconds to go, I got the ball at half-court. It was a 2-on-1 and the (defensive) guy came, and he jumped with me. I had never dunked before in practice or a game, and the whole way I was just thinking about a fancy layup. I happened to try it, and my first dunk was on somebody. One-handed.'

Portland woes

The University of Portland women have lost two players for the season because of knee injuriesÑ for the second consecutive year. Starter Ashlee Giles joined reserve Erica Moldenhauer on the shelf after suffering ligament tears in her right knee Sunday against Santa Clara.

Giles was averaging 13.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.3 steals.

The Portland men, meanwhile, lost over the weekend to San Diego and Santa Clara. It makes eight consecutive losses for the Pilots (4-12).

How things can change. Earlier in the year, both teams beat Oregon.

Around town

Here's an update on the small schools: Men Ñ Lewis & Clark (9-4) dropped to No. 25 in the latest NCAA Division III national poll, and the Pioneers lost recent games to Pacific (16 points) and Whitworth (14 points). Warner Pacific (12-9, 5-3), Cascade (12-9, 4-4) and Concordia (6-13, 2-6) are in the middle of NAIA Cascade Conference play. Women Ñ Concordia (12-7) was ranked 19th in the recent NAIA poll. Lewis & Clark dropped to 7-6 after a big loss to George Fox. Cascade (3-16) and Warner Pacific (3-15) were wallowing, the latter beating Multnomah Bible and Walla Walla CC. Warner beat Pacific 71-65 for its other win. What a reality check for new Knights coach Katy Steding.

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