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January 4, 2009
UCLA endured an ugly visit to Oregon last season, but plenty has changed for both programs in 2008-09.
The 12th-ranked Bruins look to extend their seven-game winning streak on Sunday when they try for their eighth win in nine tries over the Ducks.
UCLA (11-2, 1-0 Pac-10) pulled out an 80-75 victory in its visit to Oregon on Jan. 24, 2008 as former Bruin Kevin Love was booed and jeered unmercifully by the student section, known as the Pit Crew. Love jilted Oregon - his home-state school where his father Stan starred in the 1970s - and was the target of vicious abuse throughout the night.
Love and Russell Westbrook both left early for the NBA, leaving UCLA with some holes to fill. Oregon (6-7, 0-1), meanwhile, lost four seniors from a team that reached its second straight NCAA tournament.
The Bruins are clearly the team that is adjusting better to the new season. They have won by an average of nearly 26 points per game during their winning streak, and had no trouble in their Pac-10 opener, a 69-46 win over Oregon State on Friday.
UCLA, which has won the last three conference regular-season crowns, opened defense of those titles by building a 21-point lead at halftime against the Beavers. Darren Collison and reserve Michael Roll each scored 16 points to lead the Bruins.
"I think we have a lot more chemistry that we've had in the last three or four years," Collison said. "We have a lot better shooters, we've got way better passers than last year. This team seems to be clicking."
One of UCLA's major additions is the player that has taken Westbrook's spot in the starting lineup - freshman Jrue Holiday. The dynamic guard seems to be getting more comfortable in coach Ben Howland's offense as his first season progresses and he's averaging 10.5 points.
"We're playing OK. We have a lot to improve on," Holiday said. "It's better than I expected this early in the season."
It was a much different story for Oregon in its first Pac-10 game, an 83-62 loss to Southern California on Friday. The Ducks were outscored 49-28 in the second half.
"Our problem was energy in the second half," Ducks guard Garrett Sim said. "We came out flat. There wasn't the same defensive intensity, and we let it get away from us."
Sim is one of two freshmen in the starting lineup for Oregon, joining 6-foot-10 center Michael Dunigan, the Ducks' second-leading scorer with 11.2 points per game. Dunigan was plagued by foul trouble and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds against the Trojans.
"Our energy wasn't where it needed to be," Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. "We had breakdowns on defense that affected our offense too."
This game features a matchup at point guard between Collison and Oregon junior Tajuan Porter. Collison averaged 19.5 points in last season's two wins over the Ducks, while helping limit Porter to an average of 14.0 points on 34.5 percent shooting.
Oregon has lost eight straight games versus ranked opponents, including two this season. The Ducks fell 98-69 to No. 1 North Carolina on Nov. 25 and 70-57 the next day to then-No. 6 Texas.