Men’s basketball preview: Oregon vs. UC Irvine

Sophomore guard Damyean Dotson (21) pumps up his teammates before the start of the first half. The No. 15 Oregon Ducks play the Illinois Illini at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. on Dec. 14, 2013. (Andrew Seng/Emerald)

Sophomore guard Damyean Dotson (21) pumps up his teammates before the start of the first half. The No. 15 Oregon Ducks play the Illinois Illini at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. on Dec. 14, 2013. (Andrew Seng/Emerald)

Posted by Ryan Kostecka on Monday, Dec. 16 at 4:00 pm.

Not only will the Oregon men’s basketball team be looking to begin the season 10-0 when they host UC Irvine on Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m., the Ducks will be playing as a full squad for the first time this year.

Once-projected starters Dominic Artis and Ben Carter were suspended for the first nine games of the season for selling team apparel. Now, Oregon will have to find a way to carve out minutes for both players while not taking away from team chemistry.

“We’re not going to start them right away,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We’re going to work them in.”

Johnathan Loyd took over the starting point guard role for Artis and has played admirably, averaging 11.1 points per game and a Pac-12-high 7.4 assists per game. Loyd was especially big in Oregon’s two most recent wins when he had 23 points and a career-high 15 assists at Ole Miss and scored the Ducks’ last six points in 28 seconds of regulation to complete the come-from-behind victory over Illinois.

It’s expected to be hard for Artis to break through the ranks of Oregon’s four guards as Loyd, Joseph Young, Jason Calliste and Damyean Dotson are all averaging at least 10.2 points per game.

Carter should see more action early on as Mike Moser and Elgin Cook are the only posts averaging double digits in points. Plus, the more Waverly Austin struggles, the better chance Carter has of seeing the court often.

Oregon gets the chance to put all of this together when it faces a deep UC Irvine team (6-5).

Four Anteaters average double figures in points, led by 6-foot-4 guard Chris McNealy and his 12.4 points per game. Luke Nelson is the sharp-shooter of the group, averaging 11.7 points per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

Will Davis II is UC Irvine’s go to big man in the post, averaging a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game and 11.5 points per game. Alex Young is the catalyst that makes the Anteaters go, averaging 10.4 points and 4.5 assists per game.

The Anteaters scored a big win in their third game of the season, an 86-72 victory over Washington but suffered a 73-56 loss to California two weeks ago.

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