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Oregon pushes around Mercer for 11th straight win

Dec 24, 2006 - 1:03 AM EUGENE, Oregon (Ticker) -- Despite playing shorthanded, Oregon is off to its best start in a long time.

Aaron Brooks scored 27 points as No. 23 Oregon matched its best start in 60 years with a front-running 84-64 victory over Mercer.

Bryce Taylor scored 15 of his 21 points in a decisive first half for the unbeaten Ducks, who have won their first 11 games for the first time since the 1946-47 squad got off to a 12-0 start.

Playing for the first time in six days, Oregon was missing frontcourt mainstay Malik Hairston, who collected 21 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday's win over Idaho but sat out with a heel injury.

"We had to make a lot of adjustments with just eight healthy bodies but we did a good job managing the game," Oregon coach Ernie Kent said.

Even without Hairston, the Ducks dominated inside, holding a 42-26 advantage in points in the paint and a 55-29 bulge in rebounds. Oregon had 25 offensive rebounds to Mercer's 24 defensive rebounds.

Adam Zahn started for Hairston and had 15 points and 11 boards and Maarty Leunen added 10 and 18 for the Ducks. They combined for 15 offensive rebounds, helping Oregon collect 19 second-chance points and remain one of four unbeaten teams in the country.

"We have a great shot at going undefeated in our non-conference season and that would give us great momentum going into the conference season," Kent said. "(But) when you go into that second part of the season, everyone is back to 0-0."

Taylor made 4-of-8 3-pointers. He sank two shots from the arc and another hoop in the first seven minutes as Oregon jumped to a 19-8 lead.

Mercer's James Florence scored nine straight points, including a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 22-21 with 7:28 left in the first half. But Oregon never relinquished the lead.

Zahn scored six points in a 16-5 surge that closed the first half. It was capped by another 3-pointer by Taylor that provided a 44-31 advantage.

"Zahn really helped himself with that double-double," Kent said. "He played really well in a starting role and that was key with our depleted bench."

"I didn't know until this morning that I was going to start," Zahn said. "I knew I had to step up with all of the injuries that we have had."

The Ducks led by at least 10 points throughout the second half. Two free throws by Brooks gave Oregon its largest lead at 71-50 with 6:03 to play.

Florence scored 19 points and backcourt mate Shaddean Aaron added 16 for the Bears (5-6), who shot just 41 percent (24-of-58) and fell to 0-2 on a four-game road swing.

Mercer made just 3-of-16 3-pointers and is 9-of-41 from the arc on the trip.

It was the first meeting between the schools.

    --- --- -----
    MERCER 31 33 64
    OREGON (23) 44 40 84 FINAL

    Dec 23 5:46 PM

    MERCER 31

    Dec 23 4:44 PM