Washington St.-Oregon Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- Oregon's highest ranking in more than five years has coincided with it being on the verge of its best conference start since the 1920s, yet coach Dana Altman expects more from his squad.
The No. 16 Ducks seek a seventh straight victory when they host struggling Washington State on Wednesday night.
After sweeping a trip to Los Angeles with a 76-74 victory over Southern California on Thursday and a 76-67 win at then-No. 24 UCLA on Saturday, Oregon reached its highest standing in the Top 25 since also being ranked 16th in December 2007.
The Ducks (16-2, 5-0 Pac-12) are one victory shy of their best start in league play since winning all 10 Pacific Coast Conference games in the 1925-26 season. Oregon also opened 5-0 in conference in 1973-74 as a member of the Pac-8.
Altman, though, isn't taking much solace in those accomplishments for a program that has missed the NCAA tournament in his two previous seasons at the helm, and the last four overall.
"Those things (at this point in the season) don't mean much," Altman said. "I think our program, our team, has a lot further to go. All it means is people get a little bit more excited to play us. Hopefully our players remember that."
Oregon ranks second in the conference with 76.4 points per game and has five players averaging in double figures - led by Damyean Dotson (11.9) and Tony Woods (11.3) - but Altman wants to see more consistency on the offensive end.
Three of his team's conference wins have come by four or fewer points.
"That's why I'm excited. I think this team has so much more room for growth," Altman said. "We're nowhere near where we can be. Our challenge over the next six, seven weeks is to close that gap between where I think we should be and where we're at."
The Ducks have won 11 of 12 and are seeking a seventh victory in eight meetings with Washington State (10-8, 1-4), which has gotten off to a rough start in conference play.
Brock Motum is averaging 19.1 points, but he shot 5 of 16 and scored 13 in a 58-49 loss to Colorado on Saturday.
Motum has made 35.7 percent from the field over his last three games.
"It's a concern when he doesn't shoot well," coach Ken Boone said. "He's our best scorer. To take 16 shots and end up with 13 points is not very efficient."
The Cougars are shooting 38.9 percent in conference play and rank 11th in the Pac-12 at 42.8 percent overall. They are averaging 63.3 points - lowest in the league.
"We have a lot of room for improvement - not in the big scheme of things but minute details," Motum said. "Once we get that figured out the rest will sort of flow."
Altman still believes Oregon is in for a challenge defensively.
"They spread the floor pretty good and Brock is an unusual matchup for us," Altman said. "When they get it going offensively they can be tough."
Updated January 23, 2013