As has been noted before, Dana Altman teams can take a while to warm to their task in the first part of the Men’s Basketball season. Friday night’s contest against the University of California-Irvine Anteaters was no exception to this general rule, as the Ducks couldn’t take care of the ball and couldn’t hit a three-pointer until late in the second half. The Anteaters ran away from Oregon, winning 69 – 56.
Oregon looked out-of-sorts from the beginning. The Ducks first possession ended in a turnover by N’Faly Dante, and Oregon quickly fell behind 4 – 0 as Will Richardson and Dante made consecutive turnovers. Oregon got on the board after 2 minutes with a Dante free throw and then tied the game 4 – 4 on a Keeshawn Barthelemy jumper and free throw. Oregon’s defense early was up to the task, but the Ducks simply could not score the basketball. After an Irvine 3-pointer, both teams struggled to score but Irvine outscored Oregon 5 – 2 over a 5-minute stretch to take a 12 – 6 lead. Oregon closed to 16 – 13 on a Dante dunk and three free throws over a 2-minute period as the Ducks forced some missed shots.
Neither team was generating anything like a consistent offense, but Oregon managed to finally knot the game at 17 and then take its first lead at 18 – 17 on two Kel’el Ware free throws at 6:11. Irvine followed with a 3-pointer, a couple of free throws and a 2-point jumper surrounding a Dante layup and the Anteaters led 24 – 20 at 3:46. Irvine then went on an 11 – 2 run to close out the half, leading 35 – 22 when the horn sounded. Dante led Oregon in the half with 10 points and 7 rebounds. The Ducks were 0 – 7 from beyond the arc and only 7 – 24 shooting overall. Richardson had 3 assists, but 2 turnovers, while Oregon had 8 turnovers overall. Irvine was 7 – 16 on 3-pointers.
Trailing by 13 on its home court coming out for the second half, Oregon was looking to get off to a quick start and get back in the game. Irvine was having none of it, however, reeling off 5 straight to go up by 18 before Rivaldo Soares hit Oregon’s first 3 of the game to close to 40 – 25. Oregon simply could not get untracked offensively, and even going to a full-court press didn’t help slow the Anteaters down. Irvine scored again inside, and Oregon turned the ball over twice more. Irvine just kept casting off from 3 except when Oregon defended the line, then the Anteaters worked the ball inside for easy layups or short-range jumpers. A scoop layup at 16:45 gave the Anteaters their first 20-point lead at 46 -26 and an Irvine 3 at 15:53 put them up 52 – 28. Over the first 5 minutes of the second half, Irvine outscored the Ducks 17 – 6. Oregon continued ice-cold from beyond the arc and were 1 – 15 on 3-pointers with 10:45 left in the game and trailing 57 – 32. Nothing really worked for Oregon in this game as Oregon’s full-court press continually failed to generate turnovers or even to slow the Anteaters down much. Oregon did force a turnover on a shot clock violation with 7:40 left, but the Ducks needed quick turnovers – even lengthy scoreless Irvine possessions weren’t that helpful. Oregon could simply not get any traction on either end of the court. After stretching their 3-point futility to 1 – 18, Oregon did manage to hit its last 3 shots from downtown to finish the game 4 – 21. Garbage time and bench-emptying by Irvine allowed Oregon to cut the final down to just 13 points, 69 – 56.
For the game, N’Faly Dante led Oregon with 20 points and 9 rebounds. Nate Bittle came off the bench for 10 points, including getting to the free throw line 7 times, and grabbing 6 boards. Keeshawn Barthelemy had 9 points and Will Richardson finished with 4 assists but a team-high 7 turnovers. The Ducks were 17 – 52 (32.7%) from the field and 18 – 28 from the free throw line.
It’s early, and the Ducks clearly have some bugs to work out but it’s also a long season with lots of practice time to work out the kinks and learn to play together. The Ducks are next in action Tuesday night, November 15 against the Montana State Bobcats in Matthew Knight Arena starting at 6:00 pm.