EUGENE, Ore. — With finals finished, Oregon can focus on basketball for the next month.
The 24th-ranked Ducks (7-2) are back on the court for the first time in eight days when they host Alabama (4-3) Sunday at 3 p.m. Oregon won its fifth straight game with a 128-59 win over Savannah State on Dec. 3 before taking finals week off from games.
“The next three or four weeks are really important for this team,” coach Dana Altman said. “We have to get so much better in so many areas. We only have four games before conference play. Alabama is up next and then we have one day before Montana and then UNLV in Portland before we come back and play Fresno State. We will give them four days off for Christmas and then it is conference time.”
Article continues below ...
Oregon’s sense of urgency is ramped up by the fact it opens Pac-12 play against No. 2 UCLA on Dec. 28.
“With as many guys as we have back, we shouldn’t be making the mistakes we make,” Altman said. “Defensively and offensively, we’re making mistakes that veteran teams probably should not make.”
Oregon returned four starters from last year, when it went 31-7 and reached the Elite Eight, but its best player has been slowed early in the season following foot surgery in July. Six-foot-seven all-conference junior forward Dillon Brooks missed the first three games of the season and is averaging 18.2 minutes per game off the bench in his first six games back.
“It is all up to coach,” Brooks said. “He keeps on saving it and saving it, but he’s going to let the beast loose soon.”
Brooks is averaging 13.7 points in limited time and Altman indicated he will return to the starting line-up soon.
“I’m almost 100 percent, just trying to get in shape a bit more,” Brooks said. “I feel good and my teammates keep pushing me to go harder and push harder, so it goes great.”
Oregon is coming off a blowout win over Savannah State, when it set single-game school records for points in a game as well as field goals (54) and assists (36).
Sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey scored a career-high 29 points against the Tigers and now leads the Ducks with 13.8 points per game. Senior center Chris Boucher is averaging 13.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.0 blocked shots.
Alabama (4-3) has also had more than a week off since losing 77-68 at Texas.
Six-foot-eight freshman Braxton Key leads the Tide with 10.4 points per game while freshman guard Dazon Ingram averages 10.3 points and 4.4 assists.
Alabama will be without junior guard Nick King, who is averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds. King started two games, but has an unknown illness that caused him to lose 10 pounds.
“He hasn’t been able to sleep and eat,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “It’s not something that’s normal.”