After defeating lower conference foes in Northern Arizona and Portland State, the Ducks face their first test of the season Friday at Vanderbilt. Even though the Commodores lost five players from last season’s sweet 16 team and 88 percent of the team’s offensive production from last season is gone, they still pose a real threat this Friday night. Vanderbilt’s leading returning scorer, sophomore point guard Kedren Johnson, averaged 3.1 points per game, the lowest returning point total in the SEC. The Commodores have a general lack of experience with only two upperclassmen on the roster.
As for Oregon, in the Ducks’ first two games head coach Dana Altman said there were a lot of things to improve.
“Defensively our communication’s gotta get a lot better,” said coach Altman. “Offensively our ball movement’s gotta improve. You name the area of the game we’ve got a ways to go.”
After Monday’s game against PSU, Altman said his team would have to take a lot of steps forward to be successful on Friday.
“We’ve taken some steps. We haven’t made the progress in practice we need to. I thought we took a big step in Monday night’s ball game,” Altman said. “Whether we’re ready for another BCS school, whether we’re ready for a game like that i’m not sure.”
But for the Ducks, this will be their first big way to prepare them for the rigors of playing in the Pac-12 conference.
“We wanna have some games that prepare us for the Pac-12 and challenge us,” Altman said. “And in a year like this where we have 8 new guys it’s kind of important that we have some games to develop some guys also.”
Two of those players are Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis, the backcourt duo who has both started games this season.
“Damyean Dotson’s done a nice job. Dominic Artis has been solid.” Altman said. “We’re getting moments from all of them, but the consistency is a problem for all of them.”
Senior forward E.J. Singler said that, while it shouldn’t, players play with a little extra energy in practice knowing a major opponent is approaching.
“It definitely puts an extra jump in your step knowing you’re facing a really good team,” Singler said. “It definitely boosts up your energy a little bit.”
For all of the Ducks, rebounding and defensive chemistry has been an issue. Arsalan Kazemi, a transfer from Rice, could help out Oregon vastly in both areas. However, Kazemi’s hardship waiver has not been cleared yet and there is no update on his status this season.
“If we get the waiver, he’ll play right away,” said Altman when asked about Kazemi being cleared for action.
While the Ducks played well defensively in the first half, keeping Portland State to under 43 percent from the field, Singler stressed playing a complete game on the defensive end to live up to their potential as a team.
“We need to do it the whole game and if we do we’ll be a really good defensive team,” said Singler.
For the Ducks, Friday will be a measuring stick game to see their early season progress. “It’s definitely gonna tell us where we’re at.” Singler said.