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Ducks look for better crowd

Matthew Knight Arena has been less than half full for its first two men’s basketball games this season.

Oregon has drawn a total of 10,527 fans for nonconference victories over Coppin State and Detroit, nearly 2,000 fewer than it had for last year’s home finale against Arizona. Both late-night starts turned into blowouts in front of sleepy crowds. Oregon senior guard Joseph Young twice exhorted the fans to cheer louder during Monday’s victory over Detroit.

After the game, Oregon coach Dana Altman put out the call for more fans to show up at 4 p.m. Friday when the Ducks host Toledo. Oregon’s home volleyball match against UCLA at 8 p.m. forced the early start time.

“We will have a very, very difficult ballgame on Friday, as tough as the ones we have when we go to Brooklyn,” Altman said, referencing Oregon’s trip to face No. 24 Michigan and either No. 12 Villanova or No. 15 VCU next week. “I know that. I hope our team figures that out, I hope our crowd figures it out. The students that came have been great. I know it is an awkward time, I don’t know how we got a 4 o’clock start, but we’ve got to get a crowd. We’ve got to get some energy in the building. Basketball has always been a home-court sport, and that game, our fans will see a very good team in Toledo.”

The Rockets went 27-7 last year and return three players who earned all-Mid-American Conference honors last year, including two of the top 10 scorers in the conference.

Fresh faces

Oregon’s four freshmen have impressed Altman through the first two games. They’re half of Oregon’s eight scholarship players until center Michael Chandler is cleared to play following a knee injury.

Forwards Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell and guards Casey Benson and Ahmaad Rorie have combined to average 35.5 points, 22.5 rebounds, and 10.5 assists this season. All have averaged more than 20 minutes per game.

“Those four guys are really solid,” Altman said. “We are asking them to do a lot. They’re not going to have a great game every night. It just doesn’t happen that way, especially for young men without much experience when we’re asking them to do so much. We just have to keep hoping that they keep making steps because they’re four good, solid players.”

Brooks and Rorie have started both games and average 14 and eight points per game, respectively. Bell leads the Ducks with 10.5 rebounds per game.

The next class

Oregon appears to have closed out its fall recruiting with the addition of Trevor Manuel, a 6-foot-9, 200-pound senior from Lansing, Mich., who tweeted on Tuesday that he signed a letter of intent to play for the Ducks. Manuel joins 6-foot point guard Kendall Small in signing with the Ducks.

The early signing period ends today and Oregon still has four scholarships available for next season.