Two 5-1 teams with question marks meet Thursday night when No. 17 Oregon travels to face No. 25 Kansas State as part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.
This is the first time that a ranked Oregon team will play a ranked non-conference opponent on the road. The Ducks didn’t fare so well in their last road game, a 99-87 loss at unranked Saint Mary’s on Nov. 20.
They bounced back for a 110-79 home win over San Francisco on Saturday. The 110 points tied for the sixth-highest total in school history and seven Ducks scored in double figures, paced by Maarty Leunen’s 18 points.
“Everyone on this team can score,” said forward Joevan Catron, who had 14 points and 14 rebounds. “Our offense is not going to be a problem. We’re going to score regardless. We just gotta make sure we stop people to get those big leads.”
Catron is correct that offense isn’t a problem for the Ducks, who are averaging 93.2 points per game. Their defense, however, allowed 50 points in the first half Saturday after yielding 61 in the second half of the loss to Saint Mary’s.
Coach Ernie Kent was pleased that Oregon limited San Francisco to 29 points after the break.
“I thought the guys did a great job in the second half of really playing the type of defense they’re capable of playing,” Kent said.
The big question surrounding Kansas State is whether someone can support star freshman forward Michael Beasley and provide some balance to its lineup.
The Wildcats, who start three freshmen, did not look impressive in going 2-1 last week at the Old Spice Classic. They lost to George Mason, needed overtime to beat Central Florida and got past Rider 82-69 on Sunday.
Beasley has a double-double in all six games this season and averaged 24.3 points and 11.0 rebounds in the Old Spice Classic to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. He was held to a season-low 13 points and 10 rebounds against Rider.
Kansas State, however, finally got Beasley some help on Sunday as South Dakota State transfer Andre Gilbert scored 22 points. That matched the highest point total this season by a Wildcat other than Beasley.
“He had 20 points at Rupp Arena against Kentucky, when he was at North Dakota State or South Dakota or wherever the heck he was at - South Dakota State,” Wildcats coach Frank Martin said of Gilbert. “You don’t score 20 points at Rupp Arena unless you have some ability to put the ball in the basket.”
Leunen, Oregon’s tallest starter at 6-foot-9, will likely draw the assignment of guarding the 6-9 Beasley. One of three senior starters for the Ducks, Leunen is averaging 16 points and a team-high 10.5 rebounds.
The Wildcats, who are 3-0 at home this season, have won both previous matchups with the Ducks, but the teams haven’t met since 1966.