After a surprising victory on Thursday, Washington State will look for a road sweep as they face the Oregon Ducks at 3 pm Pacific. The two teams faced off in their Pac-12 opener on December 29th. In that game, UO shredded the WSU defense on the way to a decisive 92-75 victory. That was the Ducks' best offensive performance of the season, as they scored 1.3 points per possession.
The victory was a sign of good things to come for Oregon. They have surprising a 8-4 conference record so far and are just one game out of first place after a blowout victory over the Washington Huskies two days ago.
The Pac-12 leaders, California and UW, both face tough road tests this weekend. This could be a prime opportunity for the Ducks to make up some ground and sit atop the standings. The Cougars don't have a shot at the league title, but every win increases the potential for an easier path in the conference tournament.
Offense and Defense previews after the jump.OFFENSE
Oregon's offensive performance has been the key to their conference record. They have been the third-most productive group in league play. In news that will make Coug fans wince, they've built their success on strong offensive rebounding and outside shooting.
Garrett Sim and Devoe Joseph are the biggest threats from the outside. Sim is primarily a spot-up shooter who has knocked 46% of his attempts, so he certainly cannot be left open. Joseph is more capable of creating his own shot and has hit on 45% of his threes.
The do-everything man for the Ducks is E.J. Singler. The 6-6 junior has a well rounded game, with the ability to knock down jumpers and drive to the basket. He also gets to the free throw line and convert, as he is making 89%.
Olu Ashaolu gave WSU all sorts of trouble in the first match-up. His athleticism was a lot for the Cougar front-line to deal with as he went 9-11 from the floor on his way to 23 points. That was far above his typical output, so it will be interesting to see if he can get anywhere near that this time around.
UO has not come close to matching their shooting performance from the first game against the Cougs. The 78.6 eFG% could be attributed some to WSU's poor defense, but they also had a special night from the field. They should be able to be efficient against the Cougs, but they certainly won't shoot like that again.
Good offensive teams have been been able to have success against Oregon, including WSU the first time around. In that game, the Cougs scored 1.07 points per possession, something that was overshadowed by UO's offensive outburst.
What Oregon has done best in conference play has been keeping opponents' off the free throw line. The competition has been limited to 33 free throws every 100 field goal attempts, second fewest in the league. This has allowed them to overcome some of their deficiencies in other areas.
The primary area in which Oregon has struggled has been three-point defense. Pac-12 opponents have hit 38% of threes and that has accounted for 28% of their point production, 3rd most in the league. DaVonte Lacy was the major contributor from the outside in the last match-up, as he hit 5 of 6 from downtown.
Brock Motum had his second-lowest point output in Pac-12 play against the Ducks. Motum scored just 12 points on 3-8 shooting with three turnovers. The Cougars will certainly need more from their star big man if they are going to steal a win in Eugene.
KenPom predicts this as a 75-69 Oregon win with 70% confidence. For the Cougs to pull the upset, they are going to have to defend better inside the paint and Motum will need to get more touches on offense. They've shown the ability to win games in which they were underdogs, can they do it again on the road?