Eugene, OR – It was obvious in viewing N’Faly Dante in pre-season practices that he was feeling the best physically that he has since he arrived in Eugene. The 6-11 center, who had been plagued with injuries, was running more fluidly and not wearing any knee support. Dante showed off his good health on Monday night, leading Oregon to a season opening 80-45 win over Florida A&M with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Dante was active throughout the game and added four steals in his 26 minutes of action. Keeshawn Barthelemy was effective with 13 points and 6-11 Nate Bittle looked good with 10 points, including a three-pointer, all in the second half. Bittle added five rebounds and officially two blocked shots, although I had him with five.
Oregon’s 5-star 7-0 freshman Kel’el Ware added eight points, five rebounds and three blocked shots, Ware, coming off a recent ankle injury, ran the court very well and added a three-pointer when he was left alone on the wing. Will Richardson ran the offense well, but had an off-game shooting, missing his first six three-pointers being nailing his last two. He finished with 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals and a +/- of +36 in his 33 minutes of play.
Oregon shot poorly, starting the game 1-of-18 on 3s, before hitting 5-of-10 from deep in the second half to end the game at 6-of-24. They did play defense and rebound well though. They ended the game with a +18 rebounding advantage including +13 on the offensive end against the smaller Rattlers. They forced 21 total turnovers and held a 21-9 advantage in points off turnovers. The effective play from their bigs led to a 42-24 edge in points in the paint.
The game wasn’t very competitive. Florida A&M stayed relatively close in the first half due to the shooting woes of the Ducks. But Oregon propped up their defense in the second half and went on a 14-point run to put the game away. The Ducks held the Rattlers to 20 second half points and caused 12 turnovers in the half. Oregon shot only 16-of-28 from the foul line to limit their final margin.
Oregon was missing three of their bench players as well as projected starter Jermaine Couisnard due to injury, so only had eight players in the rotation until the walk-ons got in late in the game. All four injured players (Couisnard, Brennan Rigsby, Lok Wur and Ethan Butler) will be out for a while. At times, the Ducks played two of their bigs together. According to Pivot Analysis, their best two-player combination was when Ware and Bittle played together. In 12 minutes of court time together Oregon scored 28 points and gave up only nine. It will be interesting to see if the effectiveness of playing Ware and Bittle together continues moving forward.
Oregon will next take the floor on Friday at 6pm when they face UC Irvine at home.