By Rob Moseley
Two of the nation’s highest-scoring teams will face off Saturday night in Matthew Knight Arena.
Entering games Thursday around the nation, Oregon was second in the country with 89.3 points per game, and BYU was sixth at 88.6 points per game. The No. 13 Ducks will host the Cougars on Saturday (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
“We’re going to have a hard time slowing them down,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “They’ve got an offense kind of similar to ours, really push the ball. They’ve got a number of guys who can score, so it’ll be a challenging ballgame for us, really test our defense.”
Like Oregon, which improved to 10-0 by beating UC Irvine on Tuesday, the Cougars (8-4) play a three-guard lineup and don’t have a 7-footer on the roster. Each team starts four players who average double figures in scoring, though the Ducks also bring two more off the bench.
“We’re going to press, we’re going to pressure them, we’re going to play hard,” senior guard Johnathan Loyd said. “We’re going to keep coming at them.”
BYU won’t back down easily, based on its early track record. The Cougars, who beat Stanford on Nov. 11 and lost at Utah last Saturday, are 15th in RPI ratings produced by ESPN. Oregon is seventh, and Illinois, which the Ducks beat last Saturday, is No. 14.
BYU is coached by Dave Rose, a collegiate teammate of UO guard Joseph Young’s father at Houston. Loyd’s older brother, Michael, played for the Cougars from 2008-10.
“We’re looking forward to going up and down the court,” said Young, the Ducks’ leading scorer at 19.3 points per game. “It’s just about execution, and having a good defensive game.”
Indeed, the Ducks don’t want to get caught up in a track-meet mentality, as fun as that might be.
“I want to say no, because coach will get mad if I said yes,” Loyd said. “So I’m going to say no. We’re going to try to play D, try to lock ‘em up.”
An aggressive defensive mentality got Loyd into foul trouble against UC Irvine on Tuesday. But the Ducks could afford that based on the return of Artis to the rotation, and Oregon expects to be able to press more defensively going forward.
Young said Altman has been pointing to the BYU game for several weeks, mentioning it specifically when harping on the need for guards to be involved in rebounding, and transitioning quickly to the offensive end. The Cougars’ 179 three-point attempts are one more than Oregon’s season total, long shots that can lead to rebounding opportunities well outside the post.
“We really have to box out our man, and go help the bigs rebound,” Young said.
To that end, the Ducks welcomed Artis’ return Tuesday, when he collected a career-high eight rebounds against UC Irvine. He also demonstrated his particularly ability to break down a defense in the halfcourt, opening up space for teammates to find shots.
“He makes the game easy for everybody,” senior guard Jason Calliste said.
Artis’ return opens up the potential late in games for a three-guard lineup of Artis, Loyd and Calliste, all solid ballhandlers and free-throw shooters.
“Who are you going to guard?” Calliste said. “And we’ll be good on defense, because we’re all quick.”