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January 15, 2011

UCLA heads to Eugene

The UCLA Bruins (10-6, 2-2) will face the Oregon Ducks (8-9, 1-4) on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 at the new $230 million Mathew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon. The Ducks on Thursday night made the inauguration of the arena successful with a 68-62 win over USC. In the meantime, the Bruins somehow escaped Corvallis with a very shaky 62-57 win over the Oregon State Beavers.

Oregon is coached by Dana Altman who is in his first year in Eugene. He spent the previous 14 years at Creighton where he had a successful stint, with 14 straight 20 win seasons but never advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Altman was not Oregon's first choice as many big names turned the Ducks down. He is known to have a very flexible approach who will coach a system based on whatever collection of players he may currently have on his roster.

The Ducks have had a series of injuries and other issues to the extent that it is sometimes unclear who is going to play and who isn't. Eight different players have started at some point this season.

The team's leading scorer and best player is Joevan Catron. Catron is a 6-7, 245 pound senior forward who is the team's leading scorer at around 16 points per game as well as the leading rebounder at about 6.5 rebounds per game.

Catron missed most of last season with a back injury. He is the clear leader for the Ducks and essentially a power forward. He did not play against SC because of a new calf injury. His status for the game Saturday is not clear. The likely matchup for Catron would be Reeves Nelson.

Oregon 's second leading scorer is 6-6 sophomore E.J. Singler, who is, of course, the younger brother of Duke's Kyle Singler. The younger Singler is a good three point shooter and is averaging over 11 ppg. More than likely, Tyler Honeycutt will guard Singler. The other front court starter is likely to be 6-8 junior Jeremy Jacob. Jacob is averaging over seven ppg. but only played briefly against SC and was scoreless. Jacob will probably be guarded by Joshua Smith.

Oregon's starting guards have recently been 6-1 junior combo guard Garrett Sim and 5-9 freshman Johnathan Loyd. Sim is averaging nearly eight ppg and Lloyd is averaging nearly six ppg and was the leading scorer against SC. Sim and Lloyd together were a very effective backcourt against the Trojans and will give the Bruin backcourt all it can handle.

The bottom line is that the Bruins will be facing another difficult road challenge on Saturday. Matt Court will be packed again with rabid Duck fans hoping to see an Oregon sweep of the southern California schools.

The biggest issue for UCLA will be, of course, consistency. The Bruins have more talent than Oregon, but to win this game they cannot afford the type of lapses they have shown in most games this season, including Thursday night.

To the Bruins credit, they did not fold when Oregon State took the lead in the second half. But that was about the only bright spot after a solid first half. If the Bruins play consistently, they win this game going away. If there is a lapse, Oregon will defeat the Bruins.


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