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Ducks, 49ers look to break even in preseason.

Byline: UO MEN'S BASKETBALL By Ron Bellamy The Register-Guard

Seeking to begin the Pac-10 Conference season with an even slate, if not a clean one, the Oregon men's basketball team hosts Long Beach State in its final nonconference game at 7 p.m. today at McArthur Court.

"It would mean a lot to us, I think, if we could close out .500 heading into Pac-10 play with the schedule that we've had," coach Ernie Kent said.

Yes, the schedule has included the likes of North Carolina, Texas and Saint Mary's, which projected as losses from the outset, but also Oakland and San Diego, which didn't, and a struggling overtime win over Portland on Dec. 20, leaving Oregon at 5-6 before the Ducks disbanded for Christmas break.

Not that it was much of a break for some of them, because of the winter weather that snarled some travel plans and forced others to be scuttled. Forward Joevan Catron, hoping to go home to Chicago, for example, never made it out of Eugene; freshman center Michael Dunigan did make it home to Chicago, two days later than scheduled, but his Portland-Chicago flight made unscheduled stops in Kansas City and St. Louis.

The true trains-planes-and-automobiles story was that of point guard Tajuan Porter, who made it home to Detroit, somehow.

Porter was supposed to leave on Dec. 21, but his flight from Eugene to Seattle, for connection to Detroit, got canceled. He was on standby, with no assurances of when he'd get out, so Porter and teammate Nicholas Fearn drove to Seattle, Fearn's hometown. That trip took eight hours, including an episode with a trailing semi in which Fearn drove off the road and into a snowbank in the Portland area.

"We got stuck in the snow, so that took an hour to dig us out," Porter said. "We still had a ways to go to Seattle."

Porter got to a Seattle hotel at 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 22, and his flight got canceled again, and he was on standby in Seattle until about 5 p.m. He finally got a flight to Minneapolis, and was supposed to have another connection to Chicago, though he missed that flight and wound up with a direct flight to Detroit.

Not his bags, however, which went to Chicago, and didn't arrive in Detroit until Christmas Day.

Porter had to fly back to Eugene on Friday, and there were delays in Detroit and he had to re-route, and didn't get back to Eugene until midnight, missing Oregon's first post-break practice.

"It was good to get home, but it was a journey to get home," Porter said. "It was a struggle."

Unfortunately for the Ducks, Catron didn't miss that Friday practice, in which he tweaked the sprained right ankle that he injured against Utah. Catron said Saturday that he expects to play tonight, and Porter said he'd also be ready to play after dealing with a variety of injuries - groin, knee, hip pointer - in a grueling December.

The 49ers, also 5-6, also had a tough December, losing four straight before an uplifting 76-71 win over Temple before Christmas. Long Beach State finished 6-25 overall last season, the first under coach Dan Monson, the former Gonzaga and Minnesota coach whose father, Don, coached the Ducks for nine seasons through 1992.

This version, with three senior starters, appears much-improved, led by senior guard Donovan Morris, averaging 17.1 points per game. Morris, who began his career at Fresno State, scored 23 in the win over Temple, his sixth 20-point game of the season; the 49ers are 5-1 in those games.

The 49ers' other wins were over Weber State in overtime, Idaho State in double overtime, New Mexico State and Pepperdine. Their losses were to San Francisco in double overtime, BYU, Wisconsin, Weber State in a road rematch, Syracuse and Montana State.

It will be the fourth time Dan Monson has coached against the Ducks; Oregon defeated Minnesota in what was then the Portland Jam in December 1999, lost at Minnesota in 2001 and won in Mac Court in 2002.

"We've got a tough basketball team coming in here," Kent said. "They press you, they zone you, they throw three-quarter-court pressure and keep you off balance, and they've got a couple of players who can go off on you for some big numbers.

"It's a tough matchup coming off the break because you're going to have to be focused and ready to go. ... They're going to be ready to play."

LONG BEACH STATE vs. OREGON MEN

Long Beach State (5-6)

Cornel Williams, 6-4 Sr. (5.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

Brian Freeman, 6-10 Sr. (2.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg)

Donovan Morris, 6-3 Sr. (17.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg)

Stephan Gilling, 6-2 Jr. (10.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg)

Casper Ware, 5-9 Fr. (8.8 ppg, 3.6 apg)

Oregon (5-6)

Joevan Catron, 6-6 Jr. (9.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg)

Michael Dunigan, 6-10 Fr. (11.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg)

LeKendric Longmire, 6-5 So. (10.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg)

Tajuan Porter, 5-6 Jr. (14.9 ppg, 1.9 apg)

Garrett Sim, 6-1 Fr. (10.5 ppg, 2.7 apg)

Time: 7 p.m.

Radio/TV: KUGN-AM (590), Comcast 37.

Tickets: Single-game tickets available for $22; an $8 coupon available at local Bi-Mart stores.
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Title Annotation:Basketball Oregon Men; Oregon and Long Beach State each carry 5-6 records into tonight's game at Mac Court
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 29, 2008
Words:887
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