October 07, 2014

Oregon is back in the top 10 of the AP poll for the first time in nine years.

One more win and it will be celebrating its first conference title in 14.

The ninth-ranked Ducks look to earn a share of the Pac-12 crown Wednesday night when they visit slumping UCLA.

Oregon (23-6, 12-4) has a half-game lead over No. 13 Utah and needs to beat the Bruins (15-14, 6-10) or win at USC in Saturday's finale to secure a piece of its first regular-season title since 2002.

''We just want to finish out strong,'' senior forward Elgin Cook said after matching a career high with 26 points in Sunday's 86-73 win over Washington. ''We just want to take our home mentality and go on the road with it.''

By sweeping the Washington schools last week, Oregon finished 18-0 at home, the first time it went undefeated on its own court since 2001-02.

The Ducks were swept by California and Stanford in their last trip, but coach Dana Altman points to road victories over two of the conference's top teams as a confidence booster.

''I think those guys have that experience to draw from,'' he said. ''We've also won at two of the most difficult places to play in Arizona and Utah, but it's going to be difficult. Both UCLA and USC are battling for their lives.''

The Bruins' postseason aspirations don't have much life after falling to 10th place in the conference. The Trojans, though, are very much alive in the NCAA Tournament conversation as one of three teams tied for sixth.

Oregon beat UCLA 86-72 on Jan. 23 behind Dillon Brooks' 25 points and Chris Boucher's 18 points and 10 rebounds. The Ducks dominated the Bruins inside, outscoring them 42-30 in the paint and holding a 42-32 advantage on the boards.

They used a similar recipe for success Sunday, scoring 44 points in the paint to the Huskies' 26 while outrebounding them by 14.

Oregon held Bryce Alford in check in the first matchup, limiting him to 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting. The junior sharpshooter is 14 of 29 from 3-point range over his last four games.

Alford is sixth in the conference in scoring at 16.2 per game while teammate Isaac Hamilton is fourth with a 16.9 average. Hamilton, the only Pac-12 player to reach double figures in all 16 conference games, is averaging 19.5 points over the last four while making 11 of 22 3-pointers.

Although Alford and Hamilton are dialed in from long range, it hasn't led to many wins. The Bruins have dropped five of seven and are trying to avoid losing three consecutive conference games in a season for the first time since 2010.

''Same old stuff. We've got to figure out what we have to do,'' Alford said after Saturday's 79-70 loss at Stanford. ''As a team, we're kind of a lost cause right now. We're trying to stay together and that's the hardest part.''

Defense was UCLA's biggest issue Saturday as the Cardinal shot 61.2 percent - the highest mark by an opponent since Oregon was at 62.3 last January.

The Ducks have been rolling offensively in three wins since the hiccup in the Bay Area, averaging 84.3 points.

Cook has totaled 50 in the last two while Brooks is averaging 20.7 points in the last six.

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