By Rob Moseley
In the five days since Oregon’s 107-point offensive explosion against Western Carolina, the Ducks had their two best practices yet this season, junior guard Joseph Young said.
Now ranked No. 17 in the nation, the UO men’s basketball team got in some “good work defensively and on the boards” since their last game, head coach Dana Altman said.
Oh, and the Ducks continued the now 10-day process of getting their bodies back on Pacific time following a trip to South Korea for their season-opening win over Georgetown.
“I’m still going to sleep at 2 or 3 a.m.,” UO senior Mike Moser said.
Fortunately, those late nights haven’t impeded all that progress in practice. The Ducks (2-0) return to competition this evening, hosting Utah Valley in Matthew Knight Arena (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
The Wolverines (2-1) will play their third straight game against a 2013 NCAA Tournament team. The first-year Western Athletic Conference member beat North Carolina A&T, 78-71, and lost 93-40 to Oklahoma State.
Given the offensive outburst against Western Carolina last time out, Altman’s focus on defense and rebounding is understandable. He said Monday he hopes “we can continue to carry those two characteristics, and get some consistency there.”
Young set an arena record with his 36 points against the Catamounts. He also said defense needs to be a bigger focus moving forward.
“I’ve always been a good offensive player because it’s the stuff I worked on,” said Young, a transfer from Houston. “I knew I had to come in (at Oregon) with a defensive mindset, so I’m working on my defense even more.”
Oregon’s efforts to practice team defense have been hampered by injuries, and the suspensions to point guard Dominic Artis and forward Ben Carter. Altman said freshman A.J. Lapray may be healthy enough to make his regular-season debut Tuesday, but guard Jalil Abdul-Bassit is still recovering from an ankle injury.
The absence of those four has left Altman down to eight healthy scholarship players for the first two games. Lapray would make for nine, though it’s been better for practices given the need for Artis and Carter to get reps in the absence of Lapray and Abdul-Bassit.
“It does make it kind of tough, especially two of those guys being guys that were here last year, that know everything there is to know about the system,” Moser said. “That is a setback for us, but at the same time it gives time to integrate these new guys and get them up to speed as well.”