Anteaters face tall task in clash with undefeated Ducks

Dec 17, 2013 - 3:45 PM Eugene, OR ( - The 13th-ranked Oregon Ducks put their perfect record on the line once again, as they entertain the UC Irvine Anteaters at Matthew Knight Arena on Tuesday night.

UC Irvine brings a 6-5 record into this contest, the team recently putting the brakes on a two-game slide by winning at Eastern Washington on Sunday, 70-61. The Anteaters improved to 3-2 on the road with the victory, and this is the second of four in a row the team will play outside of Irvine. The next home game for UCI is against Morgan State on Jan. 2, 2014, and the team will lift the lid on its Big West Conference slate a week later at Long Beach State.

Oregon has won its first nine games, the majority of which have come rather easily, but it's last two have arguably been its hardest. The Ducks won their first official road test of the season at Ole Miss on Dec. 8, 115-105 in overtime, and then returned to the Pacific Northwest to outlast Illinois, 71-64, this past Saturday in Portland. The only other game of note took place in South Korea in the season opener, as they got past Georgetown in an 82-75 final. UO, which is off to its best start since the 2006-07 team began 13-0, is playing the first of three straight in Eugene tonight. The Ducks will host BYU this Saturday, and they will tip off Pac-12 Conference play at Utah on Jan. 2, 2014.

Oregon owns a 3-2 series advantage over UC Irvine, and the Ducks have won the last two meetings.

The Anteaters have had very little trouble putting points on the board this season, netting 79.9 ppg in hitting 48.3 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes a 38.6 percent effort from 3-point range. They are also in the black in rebounding (+5.7), but are in the negative with regard to turnover margin (-1.8). Lacking that one superstar capable of taking over a game at the drop of a hat, balance is key to the UC Irvine's success at the offensive end, as its top four scorers average between 10.4 and 12.1 ppg. Chris McNealy paces the club in that department, while Will Davis II (7.3 rpg) spearheads the effort on the glass, and Alex Young (4.5 apg) serves as its primary playmaker. Defensively, the Anteaters are giving up 71.4 ppg, with foes dropping just 40.1 percent of their total shots, but nearly 36 percent of their long-range launches. UCI needs to improve at the free-throw line (.629). Luke Nelson came off the bench to score a team-high 13 points in the recent win over Eastern Washington, hitting all five of his field goal attempts, including a pair of treys. Davis II added 12 points, while Ndiaye Mamadou and McNealy chipped in 10 points apiece. Irvine outshot EWU, .491 to .333, and won the game despite committing 18 turnovers.

It seems offensive firepower is the order of the day with regard to several sports at the University of Oregon, and the men's basketball team is certainly among them as it ranks second in the country with a scoring average of 89.1 ppg, shooting a lofty 53.2 percent from the field, which includes a 52.1 percent showing from beyond the arc. The Ducks boast six double-digit scorers, with Joseph Young leading the way with his 19.4 ppg. Mike Moser has been impressive at both ends of the floor, netting 14.9 ppg while pacing the team on the glass with 7.6 rpg. Johnathan Loyd (11.1 ppg, 7.3 apg) is the fourth- best distributor in all of Division I, and Elgin Cook (11.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg) has yet to start a game, but is knocking down an eye-popping 68.1 percent of his field goal attempts. Defensively, the Ducks are yielding 73.6 ppg, but their foes are hitting only 29.6 percent of their 3-point tries while also being outworked on the boards by 4.2 rpg. Moser and Young both scored 14 points to pace Oregon in its recent win over Illinois, the team as a whole connecting on 55.8 percent of its total shots, despite missing 11 of its 15 3-point attempts. The Ducks were guilty of 16 turnovers in the game, but outscored the Illini in bench points, 19-9.

Oregon welcomes back Dominic Artis and Ben Carter, after the duo recently finished serving nine-game suspensions.

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