The Oregon Ducks avoided their first two-game losing streak with a much needed 78-63 victory over visiting UC Irvine on Tuesday night. With two key players back from knee injuries in freshman guard Tyler Dorsey and senior forward Dwayne Benjamin, the Ducks were able to stay perfect at home (7-0) and improve to 8-2 on the season.
Losses to Boise State (74-72) and UNLV (80-69) earlier this month showed that Oregon is not a perfect team. Injuries to Dorsey and Benjamin highlighted that, but also an injury to senior guard Dylan Ennis. He’s aiming a return in the near future to give the Ducks a full plethora of options.
Formerly the No. 15 team in the country, Oregon had fallen off because of those injuries, but things are starting to turn around just three games before Pac-12 play officially starts.
The Ducks have home matchups with Long Beach State, Alabama and Western Oregon before they travel to Oregon State to open up their conference slate on Jan. 3, and then come back home on Jan. 6 to host a very talented Cal squad.
Sophomore forward Dillon Brooks has been the most steady offensive player for Oregon through 10 games this season with a team-leading 15.4 points average. His 7.1 rebounds per game rank second on the team while his 85.4 percent free throw percentage ranks first. The 6’6″ Brooks has serious upside as an attacker and defender, hence his high rebound numbers. He’s added double digits in all but two games, with three 20-point performances.
However, it has been the Elgin Cook show as of late for Oregon, and that has been a great thing for sixth-year head coach Dana Altman.
Cook has added 48 points over his last two games, shooting 58 percent from the field and burying 6-of-8 from downtown. The 6’6″ senior is averaging 14.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. After adding 10 or more points in his first six games and just under 10 over the next two, Cook has been superb in games against Boise State (22 points) and UC Irvine (26 points).
Brooks and Cook have similar frames and games, but they play well off of each other, and right now the duo is the best thing Oregon has going. T
he Ducks assisted on over 70 percent of their made field goal attempts on Tuesday, a season-high with 19 on 27 field goals made.
“We were just really trying to make plays for our teammates and get our assist ratio up, our assist-to-turnover ratio,” Brooks said via GoDucks.com. “That just increases our chances of winning.”
With more strong performances from Brooks and Cook and the rest of this Oregon squad, things will really be flowing. Dorsey and Benjamin each came off the bench in their returns, and since Dorsey averages 14.1 points and Benjamin averages 10.9 points per game, expect the two to continue to progress.
Center Chris Boucher is a lot to handle at 6’10”, 200 lbs because he’s not only lengthy, but also quick. The junior is averaging a team-high nine rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game along with 11.8 points per night.
With all these pieces coming back together, Oregon is built to make a serious run.
With health back on the Ducks side, it’s time to play with cohesiveness as the conference schedule nears.