Aaron Brooks has keyed Oregon’s impressive start, but won’t be able to help it achieve the best one in school history.
The seventh-ranked Ducks will be missing the Pac-10’s leading scorer when they visit Washington on Thursday.
Brooks will serve the final game of a two-game suspension imposed by Oregon (18-1, 6-1) and approved by the Pac-10 last season due to his actions in a conference tournament quarterfinal game against the Huskies. Brooks, who also was forced to sit out the team’s season opener against Lehigh, intentionally elbowed Washington’s Ryan Appleby in the nose during an 84-73 win and was ejected.
Appleby required stitches in his upper lip, and Brooks sent letters of apology to Appleby and Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. Despite that gesture, Romar didn’t believe the issue had necessarily been settled.
“That’s something that won’t go away. That’s going to be brought up, I guarantee, the first time we play Oregon,” he said last March.
Instead of facing what would have likely been a hostile crowd in Seattle, Brooks won’t be in the arena as the Ducks seek the best start in school history. They have matched the school record at 18-1, set in 1926-27.
“We will be missing a key ingredient for the Washington game with Aaron Brooks being unable to play, but we are going to have to toughen up and find other ways to score the ball and get that win,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said.
Brooks’ suspension comes following another impressive performance by the senior guard. He scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half in Oregon’s 92-84 comeback win over California on Saturday.
“We feed off of Aaron,” Oregon forward Bryce Taylor said. “He leads the way with scoring and we just try to fit in. He’s a great player and a great point guard.”
Brooks is averaging 18.4 points, including 22.3 in six games this month.
Saturday’s win was one of the team’s best offensive games of the season. Five Oregon players scored in double figures, including Malik Hairston with 19 points and Tajuan Porter with 15.
The team shot 56.6 percent from the field and was 12-of-22 from 3-point range.
“We are playing in harmony this year,” Kent said. “Everyone knows that they can share the ball and still get their numbers.”
The Ducks, whose Pac-10 games have all been decided by eight points or fewer, are opening a stretch in which they are on the road for four straight games and six of eight. The team is 6-0 away from Eugene, including a win over Nebraska at a neutral site.
Oregon had lost five straight to the Huskies (11-7, 1-6) before beating them in last year’s Pac-10 tournament. The Ducks have lost five in a row at Seattle since Feb. 17, 2001.
Washington returns home after a dismal stretch on the road that wiped out the team’s impressive start. The Huskies began the season winning seven straight and 10 of 11, but have dropped six of their last seven—including five road losses.
“You’re looking for a breakthrough somewhere and we’ve been looking for one the past few games,” Romar said. “Maybe at home things can possibly change.”
The team is coming off its third straight loss, 75-47 to Washington State on Saturday. Washington shot a season-low 28.3 percent from the field, and had only one starter score in double figures.
Jon Brockman had 13 points and eight rebounds, while Quincy Pondexter scored 16 points off the bench.
The team was playing without leading scorer Spencer Hawes, who twisted his left ankle in practice last Friday. He is expected to play on Thursday.