Oregon, Connecticut trying to overcome rocky starts
LAHAINA, Hawaii — Oregon and Connecticut were both in the Top 25 at the start of the season, but both could be out of the rankings next week.
The Ducks reached their highest spot ever in the Associated Press poll at No. 4 on Nov. 15, but then lost to unranked Baylor and Georgetown.
“We're unranked now,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said after a 65-61 loss to the Hoyas in the first round of the Maui Invitational on Monday. “I don't know who the heck we think we are.”
The 13th-ranked Ducks bounced back to beat Tennessee 69-65 in overtime Tuesday to improve to 3-2.
“We are not playing very well, but we had to find a way to win the game,” Altman said.
Oregon will wrap up its week at the Lahaina Civic Center on Wednesday against Connecticut (2-3), which beat Chaminade 93-82 on Tuesday. The Huskies were ranked No. 16 in the preseason but fell out of the polls after losses to Northeastern and Wagner.
“I thought our guys played extremely well,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said after the win over Chaminade. “They did not get down on themselves.”
Sophomore guard Jalen Adams nearly had a triple-double with 25 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds against Chaminade. He is averaging 29.5 points in two games during the tournament as he prepares to face the Ducks.
“We are definitely looking forward to playing a Top 20 team,” Adams said. “It is a good challenge to see where we are at. We think we can play with the best teams.”
Oregon and Connecticut were both disappointed after losing their opener in Maui, but the winner will go home with a two-game winning streak.
“They've got a good team,” Ollie said of the Ducks. “They haven't been playing well as of late, but they've got a lot of great guys. We've got to come in and focus on our game plan.”
Oregon got all-conference forward Dillon Brooks back after he missed the first three games of the season following foot surgery. The 6-foot-7 junior led the Ducks with 17 points in the win over Tennessee.
“I'm feeling great,” Brooks said. “My foot doesn't hurt at all. I'm just ready for the next game and ready to get back and work with these guys and get better to get to that level that we need to be at.”
Altman would like to see his team get back to the level that took the Ducks to the Elite Eight last season.
“We obviously read too many press clippings and we are not playing anywhere near that level we're capable of playing,” he said.