Mark Feb. 15 on your calendar. It's the day the streak could be broken.

Could be broken.

Oregon has beaten Oregon State 18 of the last 19 games, including eight in a row after Saturday's 79-68 Duck victory. Last year, the Civil War game was an absolute disaster for Ritchie McKay's Beavers in Eugene, so the Beavers took solace in getting a little closer Saturday.

Will the stars be aligned for the Beavers in Gill Coliseum on Feb. 15? It'll be a home game against a susceptible road opponent. And Oregon State continues to improve under Þrst-year coach Jay John: Philip Ricci is rivaling Arizona State's Ike Diogu as the best Pacific-10 Conference center, the Beavers are playing decent defense and being more aggressive offensively, and freshman point Lamar Hurd is holding his own.

'Yeah, we feel confident against them,' says Ricci, who had 24 points. 'We're not afraid of anybody. This year, we know we can win.'

Now, if only Jimmie Haywood could shoot consistently and Brian Jackson's strained abdomen would go away, along with his penchant for foul trouble.

Don't be misled, however. The Ducks are still the superior program, getting better recruits. And, should the Lukes stay next year, Oregon is likely to be right back in contention to win the Pac-10 title.

It's actually an up year in Corvallis with Ricci, Jackson and Haywood as seniors. Outside of Hurd, there are many question marks for next year. There's only one junior on the roster, Jarman Sample, and he's sitting out while trying to get his academics together. Sophs Floyd North and J.S. Nash have been unimpressive in the shooting and scoring departments.

At one point Saturday, John had Hurd, fellow freshman Chris Stephens and seldom-used sophomores David Lucas (Maurice's son) and Vic Remmers (the Jesuit kid) on the floor at the same time. John played everybody in hostile McArthur Court, except Jackson's little buddy, Mike Cokley.

Outside the OSU locker room, Haywood shook Luke Jackson's hand after the game, then, whispering, sized up the Ducks: They run the fast break whenever possible Ñ after baskets and from the inbounds. They never, ever shy away from 3-pointers and rely on their point guard (Luke Ridnour) to operate the offense maybe more than any team in the country.

'We know exactly what they're going to do,' Haywood says. 'But they move so quickly É they push the ball up the court, always getting two guys on the wings. That's what we're trying to do; it's working for us, we just need to knock down some shots.

'When they (the Ducks) get into the halfcourt, they just run the pick-and-roll. We know exactly what they're going to do, but it's tough to guard them. Ridnour's good, better than I thought he would be.' Ridnour had 28 points and 11 assists Saturday.

But Feb. 15 will be another day. The Beavers slowed the Ducks down last year in Corvallis Ñ except the time when Ridnour threw a nearly halfcourt alley-oop pass to Freddie Jones, who obliged with a dunk. The Duck defense stymied them, and Brian Jackson got into early foul trouble.

CIVIL WAR NOTES: The Ducks pounded the boards, outrebounding the Beavs 42-30 and grabbing 17 offensive rebounds. The big men were better; not great, but better. É Says UO's Andre Joseph, who had 10 rebounds: 'We worked pretty hard on defense (last week); that's been the whole practice. We all know we can play offense. We have to help out each other. We're not the fastest or quickest guys in the world. If we keep helping out, we'll be all right.' É North guarded Luke Jackson initially, then the 6-3 Hurd took over. Jackson had 19 points. É Hurd had 13. 'Coach John has been on me about being more aggressive and taking pressure off the other guys,' he says. 'If I don't score, they're going to lay off me all the time.' É Says Haywood: 'If we even get to the NIT, that's a blessing for us, especially for the new coaching staff. (John's) definitely going to turn the program around.'

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