EUGENE, Ore. (AP)—Even without three starters, No. 21 Oregon continued one of its best starts ever Saturday, with an 84-64 victory over Mercer.
Now, the Ducks (11-0) are just hoping to survive the nonconference part of their schedule without any more injuries.
Aaron Brooks scored 27 points and Bryce Taylor added 21 for the Ducks, while Maarty Leunen had 10 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, and Adam Zahn added career highs of 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“I knew I was going to have to step up because of a lot of injuries,” Zahn said. “They were counting on me to produce a little more.”
The Ducks, one of four unbeaten teams in Division I, are off to their best start in 60 years. Oregon was 12-0 in 1946-47, and 14-0 twice before that.
Freshman James Florence scored 19 points and Aaron Shaddean added 16 for Mercer (5-6). Florence sparked the Bears’ comeback attempt before fouling out with five minutes remaining.
Oregon typically opens with a four-guard lineup, but injuries to Malik Hairston’s heel, Chamberlain Oguchi’s ankle and Tajuan Porter’s toe have left the Ducks with just eight healthy players, forcing them to start their biggest lineup of the season.
“We just talked about being solid on defense and smart on offense and getting through the game without injuries,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. “Yet we wanted to play just as heady of a basketball game as we possibly can even though we were down to only eight healthy bodies.”
Leunen, Zahn and 7-foot center Ray Schafer helped Oregon produce its best rebounding effort of the season. The Ducks had a 55-29 advantage on the boards.
Oregon led 44-31 at halftime and extended that to 54-34 early in the second half. Florence hit a 3-pointer to start a 10-0 run for the Bears, but they wouldn’t get any closer.
Leunen answered with a rebound dunk, and Brooks had 10 points in a three-minute stretch to push the lead back to 73-54 with 4:59 to go.
Oregon led by as many as 11 points in the first half before Florence took over, scoring nine straight points. His long 3-pointer pulled the Bears within 22-21 with 7:27 to go in the first half.
Florence hit another 3-pointer four minutes later to cut the deficit to 34-31, but Zahn’s rebound dunk sparked a 10-0 run to end the half.
Oregon closes out its nonleague schedule against Portland next Thursday before opening Pac-10 play at Oregon State on Dec. 30.
“We need our team back desperately,” Taylor said. “I feel that we have so much talent that is sitting there injured in sweat suits.”