After watching Oregon shoot only 37% from the field in a loss to USC on Friday, UCLA Coach Ben Howland suspects that the Ducks might come up with a better effort when his team plays at McArthur Court this afternoon.
“They missed shots they’re not going to miss against us,” Howland said.
The 12th-ranked Bruins still remember their visit to Eugene last season when they needed 26 points and 18 rebounds from Kevin Love to prevail in a close game.
Love is gone to the NBA, but Oregon still has 5-foot-6 guard Tajuan Porter.
“He’s so little and quick and athletic,” Howland said. “When he gets on a roll, he’s very dangerous to guard.”
The Ducks also have two impressive freshmen in guard Garrett Sim and big man Michael Dunigan.
Oregon played only a few possessions of zone defense against the Trojans but could show more of that today. The Ducks might also press the ball, Howland said.
With another hot-shooting night against Oregon State on Friday, junior Michael Roll is making close to 60% of his shots from the field, including a torrid 61.9% from three-point range.
“That’s not pretty good, that’s really good,” teammate Darren Collison said.
Roll credits increased shooting in practice as well as an off-season conversation he had with former Duke star J.J. Redick, who told him to focus on strengthening his legs.
That translated into a new kind of workout, running up and down a giant sand dune in Manhattan Beach.
“Real hard,” Roll said. “Firemen go there in the morning and they were, like, passing out.”
Howland has noticed the difference.
“He’s got more balance,” the coach said. “It’s just easier to shoot the stronger you are.”
Freshman big man Drew Gordon is also showing steady improvement, increasing his average to 4.5 points and 4.5 rebounds this season.
The problem is Gordon plays behind senior Alfred Aboya, who leads the team in rebounds and has been a focal point on defense. That means the underclassman might find it difficult to increase his playing time.
“I mean, whose minutes is he going to take?” Howland said. “He’s not taking Alfred’s minutes.”
Freshman guard Malcolm Lee will have his left knee re-examined by a doctor Monday afternoon.
Though Lee made the trip to Oregon, he did not suit up at Oregon State and is not expected to play today. No one seems to know the exact nature of his injury.
“Nothing shows up on the MRI,” Howland said. “I don’t know what the next step is.”