Getting career performances from Malik Hairston and Joevan Catron, Oregon coach Ernie Kent liked the effort his team showed in its season-opening tournament.
The 11th-ranked Ducks now try to carry that success to an arena where they’ve had some trouble when they visit rival Portland on Saturday.
Oregon (3-0) defeated Western Michigan 97-88 on Monday to complete a three-game, three-day sweep of the World Vision Invitational, hosted by the Ducks. Oregon, which returns four starters from last season’s team that reached the NCAA tournament regional finals, ran its regular-season non-conference winning streak to 15 games.
On Monday, the Ducks shot a season-high 56.0 percent (28-of-50) from the field, and made 10-of-21 shots from behind the 3-point arc for the second straight day.
“We are playing at a higher intensity now then we were at this point last season,” Kent said, even though his team opened 13-0 in 2006-07. “We can get down the road and look back, and these are three games, three wins. We can’t get too up or too down.”
Hairston has gotten off to a fast start for the Ducks after nagging groin and heel injuries forced him to miss 10 games last season. The senior guard scored a career-high 29 points on 9-of-11 shooting and recorded a career-high four blocked shots on Monday en route to being named the tournament’s MVP. He’s averaging 22.0 points through three games after averaging 11.3 last season.
Catron had a career-high 17 points and 10 rebounds in the tournament finale after scoring 12 points in the first two games combined.
“I thought Hairston got stronger throughout the ballgame,” Kent said. “Catron got stronger each night out. We’re a very well-conditioned basketball team and this was a very good opportunity to strengthen our conditioning.”
Hairston’s injuries kept him out of last season’s 76-49 home win over Portland, as the Ducks held the Pilots to 15-of-60 from the field.
Oregon, though, has lost two of its last three games at Portland’s Chiles Center, including an 80-72 defeat in its last visit on Dec. 22, 2005.
The Pilots have had no success against ranked teams lately, however, dropping 14 straight to Top 25 opponents since 2000.
In last season’s win over Portland, Catron had only five points on 1-of-8 shooting, but grabbed a career-high 17 boards.
Maarty Leunen had a career-best 24 points and 14 rebounds in last season’s win over the Pilots, and scored 18 points to go with eight rebounds on Monday. The senior forward is averaging 14.7 points and 10.7 boards on the season.
Leunen and Hairston were the starting forwards on Oregon’s team that lost its most recent trip to Portland, combining to shoot 5-of-16 from the field.
The Pilots (1-2) are coming off their first win, 73-62 over Liberty on Sunday at the World Vision Classic in Fresno, Calif.
Walter Thompson scored a team-high 15 points and fellow reserve Jared Stohl added 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.
“(It) was a fantastic team effort,” Pilots coach Eric Reveno told the school’s official Web site. “I’ve told the guys that on different nights we need different guys to step up, and we got a good all-around effort.”