Brooks: Ducks Apparently Adapt Well To Bumps In Road
BOULDER - The massive snowstorm that pounded Eastern Colorado and the Front Range Thursday night into Friday complicated the Oregon basketball team's travel to Boulder for Saturday's game against Colorado.
After winning 79-68 at Utah on Thursday night, Oregon's Friday morning flight from Salt Lake City to Denver was canceled. A team official said the Oregon travel party might be able to leave Salt Lake City on a 7 p.m. Friday flight, but there were no guarantees.
Failing that, the plan was to catch a flight early Saturday morning. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. at the Coors Events Center (ROOT Sports). Arriving on the morning of a night game isn't ideal, but based on the Ducks' road record this season in the Pac-12 Conference, routine travel complications are shed like water . . . (you can fill in the blank).
(UPDATE: Oregon was able to book a Friday night flight out of Salt Lake City and landed at DIA before 10 p.m.). CU/Oregon is SOLD OUT TONIGHT!! Standing-room tix available 6 p.m. at the Coors Events Center Ticket Office.
If the Buffs are still learning what makes a good road team, the Ducks seem to have it figured out. Surprisingly, four of Oregon's seven Pac-12 wins have come on the road, and following California's 78-74 loss at home against Arizona on Thursday night, Cal, Oregon and CU are tied for second at 7-3.
The Ducks' road success isn't lost on the Buffs, whose conference record away from the Events Center is a meager 1-3.
"They are a tough team, they have the most wins on the road in the conference," senior guard Nate Tomlinson said. "I'm sure they won't be afraid to come in here. (But) I think if we do the things that we do well then we shouldn't have a problem with them."
Following his team's 82-60 dismantling of Oregon State on Thursday night, CU coach Tad Boyle called Oregon "a mentally tough team . . . a well-coached team. They know what they do. It's not going to be an easy game (for CU)."
Fortunately, it's in the Events Center, which has developed the reputation of being an unpleasant stop during Boyle's watch. In little more than 11/2 seasons, his home record is 30-3, including 6-0 in the Buffs' Pac-12 debut and 12-1 overall this season.
Before Boyle's second CU season began 21/2 months ago, his players assembled and drew up a list of team goals. One of them - and we're assuming it was high on the list - was not only protecting home court but not losing at the CEC in league play.
"That was one of our goals to start out the season," sophomore Andre Roberson said. "We all got together and made a goal sheet and going unbeaten in conference play was a very common goal we all had."
Roberson has been instrumental in seeing that the goal is reached. He's the only Pac-12 player currently averaging a double-double (11.3 points, 11.2 rebounds) and has ratcheted up his consistency since a late-November loss at Colorado State.
In CU's runaway win against Oregon State, Roberson scored 16 points and collected 15 rebounds - his 14th double-double this season. "I think Andre got in the flow," Boyle said. "He got 10 shots up, which is always good, and he made six of them. When he gets going offensively it fuels the rest of his game."
As a team, the Buffs continue to get energy from freshman guard Askia Booker, who scored a career-high 15 points against the Beavers. Booker, averaging 21.3 minutes a game, has awed Boyle with his "fearlessness and his aggressiveness" even if Boyle has to rein him in from time to time.
Still, said Boyle, "He's perfect for us right now in the role of sixth man. I look at Booker as a sixth starter. He's playing starters' minutes."
Oregon's starting lineup appears to be work in progress for second-year coach Dana Altman, who on Thursday night at Utah started a new lineup for the eighth time this season. But Altman knows what he's doing. He's been a four-time coach-of-the-year in three different conferences and after spending the previous 16 seasons at Creighton, his first Ducks team went 21-18 (7-11 Pac-10) and was only the 12th 20-win squad in school history.
Altman's only pair of 22-game starters has been junior forward E.J. Singler and senior guard Garrett Sim. The Ducks' leading scorer is senior guard Devoe Joseph, who averages 15.7 points, while Singler averages 13.0 and Sim 12.0.
Joseph is coming off back-to-back 20-point games - the only time that's happened for any Ducks player this season. His 20 against Utah was preceded by 26 against Oregon State last Sunday. Oddly, the Ducks lost 76-71 to their instate rivals, marking only the second time in their last 19 trips to Eugene that the Beavers had won.
The Ducks are 10th in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (44.7) and ninth on scoring (69.8). But Boyle said they feature "a great inside-outside presence and have athletic post players. Joseph and Singler can shoot the ball really well from the perimeter."
The 6-6 Singler leads Oregon in rebounding at 5.1 a game, with 6-7 senior Olu Ashaolu next at 4.7 boards and 8.0 points. Tony Woods, a 6-11, 250-pound center, averages 3.9 rebounds and 6.7 points.
"We'll be challenged defensively and our post players, size-wise, will be challenged," Boyle said. "They have a nice team, good players and are well coached. We're going to have to make plays and be aggressive."
That would be a welcome sequel to Thursday night, when the Buffs held the Beavers - the Pac-12's highest-scoring team - to 22 points below their average.