Joe Burton and E.J. Singler will renew acquaintances tonight in the Civil War. - (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
Oregon (11-2) vs. Oregon St. (10-3) / Gill Coliseum / 7 PM PST / Fox Sports Network / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM
Oregon St. hosts Oregon tonight in the first Civil War battle of the new year in any sport, the first Pac-12 conference game for both this season, and the 338th meeting in the most-played college basketball rivalry in the country.
It's an unusual time in the season's schedule for the Civil War (the Ducks and Beavers have only started the conference season against each other 8 times, and not since Dec. 30, 2006), but with both teams having posted double digit win non-conference campaigns, its one of the more important battles in the epoch up and down the conference, and elsewhere, never mind the usual local energy and animosity.
Oregon will undoubtedly roll into Gill feeling good, coming off both a basketball win and their Thursday night 35-17 Fiesta Bowl win over Kansas St., while Oregon St. fans will be looking for something more substantial than their most recent hoops win to erase the disappointing memories of last Saturday, when the Beavers blew a big lead in losing the Alamo Bowl 31-27 to Texas immediately after the basketball team also blew a big lead against Towson, losing controversially 67-66 in overtime.
Oregon St. leads the series 184-153, due mostly to the Beavers' 99-61 in games played in Corvallis (56-29 at Gill), though last year both teams won on the opponents' floor. The Beavers won 76-71 at Matt Court at the mid-season mark of the Pac-12 season, as Jared Cunningham scored 24 of his game high 27 points to lead Oregon St. to a the comeback win.
The Ducks returned the favor later at Gill Coliseum, pulling out a 74-73 victory when the Beavers' Challe Barton missed a potentially game winning shot, and after Oregon's Garrett Sim had posted a game high 25 points.
Cunningham has moved on to the NBA (San Antonio recently recalled the Oregon St. first round draft pick from the "D" League), and Sim graduated, and both teams are without other key players from last year as well.
Oregon still has 6'11" senior center Tony Woods, and the Ducks are looking far more to him this season, as evidenced by his game high 13 points in their 56-43 win over Nevada in their last game on New Year's Eve. And of course Medford native E.J. Singler is still there as well.
Oregon's only losses were a 91-84 triple overtime road loss at Texas-El Paso, and a 77-66 loss to then #22 ranked (and now #14) Cincinnati back in November in Las Vegas. The Ducks also have an 83-79 win the night before over then #18 UNLV, ending what was a 20 game winning streak in the Thomas and Mack Center for the Running Rebels in their own tournament.
Oregon St. is coming off a strong 84-59 win over Texas Pan-American, also on New Year's Eve, in which 5 Beavers were in double figures, led by double doubles by both Joe Burton (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Eric Moreland (11 points, 11 rebounds), his 4th in a row, and included 12 from Devon Collier, who is #2 in the nation in points off the bench, as well as being the Beavers #2 scorer on average.
The game also featured the return to form of guard Ahmad Starks, who snapped out of a multi-game scoring slump with a game high 21 points, on 8 of 11 shooting from the field, including 5 of 7 from 3 point range.
With both teams averaging between 77 & 78 points per game, its likely a close game with the score in the 70s seems likely, but both teams have been all over the map so far this season, and against wildly diverse opposition, with only 1 common opponent, Portland St., which both beat.
Oregon has scored as many as 95 points and as few as 56, while Oregon St. has posted as many as 102, and as few as 62. The Ducks' defense has been a bit stingier than the Beavers, averaging under 62 points per game, compared to over 68, but again, individual games' points allowed have ranged from 91 down to 35 for Oregon (with 2 games where their opponent was held under 40 points), and from a high of 84 down to a low of 53 for Oregon St.
With the Arizona schools invading the valley at the end of the week, the winner tonight will be in position to get off to a significantly strong start to the Pac-12 season, while the loser may have to scramble to not get buried early in the conference race.
Here's the place to dissect the action (and doubtless dis the Ducks).