Oregon snapped out of its offensive funk Tuesday night, a development that couldn’t have come at a better time for the Ducks with No. 3 Houston next on the schedule.
Five players scored in double figures and Oregon shot a season-best 53% from the floor as it dominated Montana State 81-51 in a nonconference men’s basketball game in front of an announced crowd of 5,347 at Matthew Knight Arena.
Oregon (2-1), which dropped out of the Associated Press top 25 Monday following a loss to UC Irvine last Friday, rebounded against the Bobcats, who returned two starters and nine players from last season’s team that won the Big Sky Conference championship and made the NCAA Tournament.
Center Kel’el Ware had a breakout night for the Ducks as he came off the bench to record a team-high 16 points and a game-high tying seven rebounds.
The five-star freshman center had a combined 12 points and 10 rebounds in the Ducks’ first two games.
“He played hard tonight and his defense was much more active,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “A much better game with much better purpose.”
Ware wasn’t the only one with a solid performance Tuesday.
Will Richardson had 12 points and six assists, Quincy Guerrier had 11 points and seven rebounds and Nate Bittle and Keeshawn Barthelemy scored 10 each.
Overall, the Ducks made 32-of-60 field-goal attempts and were 12-of-27 on 3-point attempts.
With their two 7-footers in Ware and Bittle, and 6-11 N’Faly Dante, the Ducks dominated underneath the basket with 38 points in the paint and 17 second-chance points off 11 offensive rebounds.
Poor free-throw shooting becoming a trend
For as well as the team shot from the field, Oregon had another rough night from the free-throw line.
The Ducks made 5-of-13 free-throw attempts, extending a season-long trend of poor shooting from the line.
Oregon is 39-of-69 from the line through its three games, for 56.5% accuracy.
“If we’re gonna beat a good team, if we’re ever gonna get to that level, you cannot shoot 5-for-13 from the free-throw line,” Altman said. “So, we gotta get better. Our guys are gonna have to practice more and just do a better job.”
No injury scare for Dante
Nothing can suck the joy out of a 30-point win like an injury to a star player.
That was the fear late in the second half when Dante collapsed to the floor near midcourt with no one else around him and appeared to be in serious discomfort.
The senior, who had reconstructive knee surgery in December 2020, slowly got up with the help of the trainer and Altman and walked off under his own power.
“His hip’s been bothering him and he hit it on that play,” Altman said. “I think he’ll be OK. Gonna take a couple days off here and let him rest it a couple days, but I think by Friday he’ll be ready to go.”
Dante, who was the Ducks leading scorer in the first two games, stayed on the bench for the final seven minutes and finished with seven points and six rebounds.
“I thought he got shot there for a minute, the way he went down,” Altman said. “He said he’s OK. I talked to him for a little bit.”
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Oregon vs. No. 3 Houston
6:30 p.m. Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena. TV: ESPN. Radio: KUJZ-FM (95.3).