EUGENE, Ore. – You wouldn’t think a flock of wounded Ducks would be the most feared beasts in the Northwest right now, but the group that congregates at Mac Court actually is.
“Having not won a (Pac-10) game, being 0-5, they are going to put up a heck of a fight,” Washington State coach Tony Bennett said Friday as his team prepared for this morning’s conference battle with the University of Oregon.
“I’m sure it will be a physical game and quite a battle, considering the circumstances for them.”
Those circumstances include a 4-5 record at usually raucous Mac Court for the 6-11 Ducks, last in the Pacific-10 Conference standings and in seven statistical categories, including scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense.
That usually wouldn’t be all that bad for an Ernie Kent-coached team, because often they just outscore opponents.
But not this freshman-dominated group – two start and six play heavy minutes. It is the worst-shooting team in the Pac-10, hitting just 41 percent of its shots.
The Ducks are playing so poorly that even the Mac Court edge, usually the most feared in the conference, has abated for them.
“We were shocked when we first came in, because we usually hear the fans when we get off the bus,” Washington guard Justin Dentmon told the Eugene Register-Guard after Thursday’s 84-67 UW win, adding the quiet crowd was “way, way not what we expected.”
That makes WSU (10-6, 2-2 in the Pac-10) senior Daven Harmeling, making his fifth trip to Eugene, wary.
“Oregon fans have a lot of pride because they have such great tradition here, so not only will the players be hungry, I think the fans will be riled up, from those comments, too,” Harmeling said. “It will be the most hostile environment we’ve ever seen against probably the hungriest team we’ve seen.”
Bennett has started to adjust his lineup to the opposition more than he has in the past. Freshman DeAngelo Casto made his first start in the 61-57 overtime win at Oregon State and another freshman, guard Marcus Capers, may start against the Ducks. “I think I’m going to start him (today), to get him going,” Bennett said of Capers, who played 20 minutes against the Beavers. “With young guys, you never know if of bringing them off the bench relaxes them more or starting them. Hard to say.” … Harmeling said he’s not going to tell the freshmen what they’ll get from Duck fans. “It’s not much you can do to prepare them for it,” he said. Mac Court’s life expectancy is a short one (Oregon expects to open its new facility for the 2010 Pac-10 season) but Harmeling said it is his favorite place to play “because of the uniqueness of the gym. … It’s just an awesome place to play a college basketball game.” … Junior Tajuan Porter leads the Ducks in scoring, averaging 13.1 points a game. Six-foot-6 Joevan Catron is their top rebounder at 6.9.
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