GAME NOTES: The streaking Oregon Ducks begin defense of their 2013 Pac-12 Tournament title when they tangle with rival Oregon State in the first round of this year's event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
A year ago, as the third seed, Oregon got hot at just the right time as it ran to the Pac-12 title. The Ducks, who are the seventh seed this year, have been picking up steam down the stretch once again, with wins in seven straight games to end the regular season. The winning streak has helped push them back into NCAA Tournament contention, as they are now 22-8, including a 10-8 mark in conference.
Oregon State, which has never hoisted the Pac-12 or the former Pac-10 Tournament trophy, was too inconsistent this season to earn a higher seed. The 10th-seeded Beavers split their final six games of the campaign and finished 16-14 overall and 8-10 in league play, although they did earn impressive wins over UCLA, Oregon and Arizona State. They were the No. 12 seed a year ago and failed to make it past the first round.
Oregon got its season-ending win streak started with a 93-83 triumph over the Beavers, making up for an 80-72 setback earlier in the year. Still, the Beavers lead the all-time series, 185-156, although the Ducks have won four of the last five meetings.
The survivor of this clash will face second-seeded UCLA in the next round.
In the regular season finale, Oregon State barely escaped with a 78-76 decision in overtime against Arizona State. The Beavers got 16 points and 19 rebounds from Eric Moreland, who was one of five players to score in double figures, and he helped his team to an important 44-33 edge on the glass.
Roberto Nelson (20.6 ppg, 3.7 apg) normally paces the Beavers, as he is the leading scorer not just for them but the Pac-12 as well. Nelson did net 15 points in the season-ending win over Arizona State, but he connected on just 6-of-16 shots from the floor. The supporting cast features Devon Collier (13.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Angus Brandt (12.2 ppg), while Moreland (8.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2. bpg) is more important for his imposing presence on the glass and his interior defense. In total the Beavers are shooting at a 48.2 percent clip this season, the 20th-best mark in the country, while netting a solid 75.3 ppg.
Oregon's biggest win, not only of its current win streak but of the campaign came in the finale when it knocked off regular-season champ Arizona, 64-57. The Ducks went off for 10 3-pointers in the contest thanks largely to Jason Calliste, who sank four from beyond the arc and finished with a game-high 18 points.
Although it came in a win, the 64-point effort from the Ducks was far below their season average. Oregon is the highest scoring team in the Pac-12 (82.3 ppg) and the ninth-highest in the country, despite ranking fifth in the league in field goal percentage (.466). Transfers Joseph Young (18.2 ppg) and Mike Moser (13.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg) have each been enjoying stellar campaigns for the Ducks, especially Young, who was named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team earlier this week. Calliste (12.5 ppg) is another potent scorer who gives the team a spark off the bench, and Damyean Dotson (10.1 ppg) can be counted on to hit a few shots each time out.
The Ducks have clearly returned to form, and at just the right time. Expect them to move onto bigger things with an easy victory over their in-state rival.
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