Oregon entered Pac-12 play as an elite team.
The Ducks have spent the first three weeks of conference play scraping bottom.
A five-game losing streak ended Sunday with a 71-44 rout of lowly Washington State. To climb out of that hole, the Ducks need to beat UCLA on Thursday in Eugene.
Oregon Coach Dana Altman was encouraged by the Washington State game, though DaVonte Lacy, the Cougars' leading scorer, missed a sixth consecutive game because of a rib injury.
“I thought our communication was better, our transition defense was better and our rebounding was much better, “ Altman said. But, he also admitted, “I don’t think Washington State played very well.”
The Cougars shot 25% from the field.
But the Ducks hope it’s a start, or rather, a restart. Oregon was undefeated and ranked 10th nationally when Pac-12 play began.
The five-game losing streak included home losses to California and Stanford, teams that UCLA beat at home last week.
“This league is hard,” UCLA Coach Steve Alford said. “All of a sudden you lose a home game, you feel more pressure. One loss on the road can lead to another one. You start stumbling home and start second-guessing things.”
Altman identified a big area of concern when preparing to play the Bruins: Kyle Anderson, UCLA’s 6-foot-9 point guard.
Anderson has averaged 19.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists the last three games.
“Kyle is so versatile,” Altman said. “He can give you so many different looks, whether it’s ball-handling, passing skills and the ability to see over the defense. He moves the ball well and has great instincts. He creates problems whether it’s shooting the three or setting up teammates. There is not anybody in this league who is like him.”
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