Oregon is starting to adjust to playing without its starting point guard while the loss of Washington State's floor general has only added to its woes.
This Pac-12 rematch will likely have a different look than last month's meeting as the 23rd-ranked Ducks go on the road to try to hand the Cougars a sixth straight loss Saturday.
Oregon (20-5, 9-3) has regained sole possession of first place with two straight wins following a three-game skid. The Ducks are expected to play a seventh straight game without Dominic Artis, who led the team with 72 assists before being sidelined with a foot injury since a 68-61 victory over the Cougars on Jan. 23.
Johnathan Loyd has started in Artis' place, and turned in his best effort of that stretch with a season-high 11 points in Wednesday's 65-52 victory at Washington. Loyd made 4 of 7 shots after shooting 21.4 percent over his previous five games.
"I was just so happy for him to hit a few shots," coach Dana Altman said. "He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. He wants to help the team so bad, I think he puts too much pressure on himself."
Loyd appeared to hurt his knee late in the game, but said he was OK.
Last-place Washington State (11-14, 2-10) played without Mike Ladd in Wednesday's 67-66 defeat to Oregon State. Ladd, second on the team in scoring (11.4 points per game), was out with a left knee injury.
"We had to play without a guy that's a good player and a good leader," coach Ken Bone said.
Sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew started in Ladd's place, but freshman Bryce Leavitt handled more of the point guard duties as he logged more minutes with 25 - 25 less than he had the entire season. Leavitt did not score, but had five assists and three rebounds.
Leavitt says he will be ready if he's called upon to start.
"I don't really know what's up with Mike, he's a great player but we're preparing to play without him if we have to and I'm ready to step up to a bigger role and do whatever coach Bone needs me to do," Leavitt said.
Ladd led Washington State with 19 points and Artis had seven points in 26 minutes when these teams met in Eugene last month. Loyd had four assists in 14 scoreless minutes and Leavitt was credited with '0+' minutes in the official box score.
The Cougars led by 10 at the half of that contest before the Ducks limited them to 27.3 percent shooting the rest of the way.
Senior forward E.J. Singler has averaged 16.3 points on 55.8 percent shooting in leading Oregon to four straight wins in this series.
Cougars guard DaVonte Lacy is playing much better now than he did against the Ducks when he made 1 of 8 shots for seven points. The sophomore is averaging 19.3 points on 56.3 percent shooting in his last three games.
"I'm shooting the ball good," Lacy said. "Teammates are finding me when I'm open."
Washington State is on its longest slide since losing its final seven 2005-06 games.
With a victory, the Ducks will record sweeps of both Washington schools for the first time since 1989-90.
The Associated Press News Service
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