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At 11-0, No. 23 Oregon off to best start in 60 years

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- Even without three starters, Oregon (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today; No. 21 AP)
continued one of its best starts ever Saturday, with a 84-64
victory over Mercer on Saturday.

Now, the Ducks are just hoping to survive the preseason without
any more injuries.

Aaron Brooks scored 27 points and Bryce Taylor added 21 for the
Ducks. Maarty Leunen had 10 points and a career-high 18 rebounds,
and Adam Zahn added career highs of 15 points and 11 rebounds for
the short-handed Ducks (11-0), one of four unbeaten teams.

"I knew I was going to have to step up because of a lot of
injuries," Zahn said. "They were counting on me to produce a
little more."

The Ducks are off to their best start in 60 years. Oregon was
12-0 in 1946-47, and 14-0 twice before that.

Freshman James Florence scored 19 points and Aaron Shaddean
added 16 for Mercer (5-6). Florence sparked the Bears' comeback
attempt before fouling out with five minutes remaining.

Oregon typically opens with a four-guard lineup, but injuries to
Malik Hairston's heel, Chamberlain Oguchi's ankle and Tajuan
Porter's toe have left the Ducks with just eight healthy players,
forcing the Ducks to start their biggest lineup of the season.

"We just talked about being solid on defense and smart on
offense and getting through the game without injuries," Oregon
coach Ernie Kent said. "Yet we wanted to play just as heady of a
basketball game as we possibly can even though we were down to only
eight healthy bodies."

Leunen, Zahn and 7-foot center Ray Schafer helped Oregon produce
its best rebounding effort of the season. The Ducks had a 55-29
advantage on the boards.

Oregon led 44-31 at halftime and extended that to 54-34 early in
the second half. Florence hit a 3-pointer to start a 10-0 run for
the Bears, but they wouldn't get any closer.

Leunen answered with a rebound dunk, and Brooks had 10 points in
a three-minute stretch to push the lead back to 73-54 with 4:59 to
go.

Oregon led by as many as 11 in the first half before Florence
took over, scoring nine straight points. His long 3-pointer pulled
the Bears within 22-21 with 7:27 to go in the first half.

Florence hit another 3-pointer four minutes later to cut the
deficit to 34-31, but Zahn's rebound dunk sparked a 10-0 run to end
the half.

Oregon closes out its nonleague schedule against Portland next
Thursday before opening Pac-10 play at rival Oregon State on Dec.
30.

"We need our team back desperately," Taylor said. "I feel
that we have so much talent that is sitting there injured in
sweatsuits."

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