It wasn’t the best of ways to begin the college basketball season. But then again, Oregon’s 77-58 win over Western Oregon won’t count in the overall standings.
Led by a dominant effort in the paint by freshmen Bol Bol and Francis Okoro, the Ducks thoroughly dominated the second half en route to its first real action in their exhibition opener. Bol finished with a team-high 19 points while Okoro posted a double-double
16 points (14 in the second half) and 10 rebounds off the bench.
It was a pretty listless performance by No. 14 Oregon, which is to be expected as four of its top eight players didn’t play for a variety of reasons.
Returning leading scorer and point guard Payton Pritchard (14.5 ppg and 4.8 apg last year) missed the exhibition with bruised ribs. As he sat on the bench in street clothes, it was extremely apparent how badly the Ducks missed his leadership, long-range shooting and floor generalship. Oregon committed 19 turnovers overall, 12 of which came in the first half.
Oregon head coach Dana Altman hopes Pritchard can return “soon,” maybe as soon as the Ducks’ season opener on Tuesday, November 6 against Portland State.
"I hope so," Altman said of Pritchard playing next Tuesday. "See how he feels. He wants to play, but he couldn't go tonight."
Also missing for the Ducks was forward Paul White (funeral) and freshmen Will Richardson and Louis King (both out with injuries). All three players, along with Pritchard, are expected to make up half of Oregon’s depth on the season.
Abu Kigab did a good job of supplying the Ducks with energy, finishing the game with 11 points and six rebounds.
It was an ugly first half as the turnovers and missed shots failed to see Oregon separate itself from Western Oregon, leading just 29-27 at the break. But the Ducks looked a lot more calmness and played in control to begin the second half, knocking down five of their first six shots with a 19-5 run to pull away.
Bol showed tremendous potential with monstrous dunks and great putbacks, but the same thing that dogged him in high school was apparent tonight. His lack of hustle and physicality was not what Altman wanted to see, acknowledging that the 7-foot-2 freshman is talented but still has a long way to go to achieve his potential.
"He's got to play a lot harder. He's got to improve his positioning, talk defensively but he is talented. He is skilled," Altman said of Bol. "We said from the start he's a unique player, unique talent. There's a lot more there. He coasts a lot. But he's getting better. He's working at it. He's going to be a work in progress all year but there's a lot more that he can do."
Oregon begins the season against Portland State at Matthew Knight Arena on Tuesday, November 6. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.