Eugene, OR – The No. 15 ranked Oregon Ducks took control early in the season opener as they cruised to a 71-57 victory over the Fresno State Bulldogs. The win gave Dana Altman his 236th win as a head coach for the Ducks placing him as the school’s all-time winning coach.
The Ducks were led by their floor general and senior point guard Payton Pritchard. The 6’2” guard did it all by finishing with a game high 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the floor. In addition, he dished out seven assists and seven rebounds. It was evident from the start that Fresno State was attempting to keep the ball out Pritchard’s hands. Pritchard’s great ability to handle the ball under pressure and quick change of pace while attacking the hoop allowed him to generate, create and make his shots with a high percentage tonight.
The Ducks started their run after getting behind 21-17 to the Bulldogs until Pritchard penetrated and dished to the transfer shooting guard Chris Duarte for a 3 pointer to cut the lead to one with 7:46 remaining in the first half. For the next 16 minutes, Oregon outscored their opponent 37-12 to take a 21-point lead. Duarte showed his smooth shooting stroke scoring 16 points and added seven rebounds.
Francis Okoro, one of three returners from last year’s Sweet Sixteen run, was a beast in the paint recording a double-double by grabbing 10 rebounds including six offensive boards and contributing 10 points (4-8 FG, 2-3 FT). Okoro avoided what looked to be a serious shoulder injury when he dove for a loose ball on the floor late in the first half and left immediately to the locker room in pain, but returned for the start of the second half. The trio of Pritchard, Duarte and Okoro combined to score 50 out of the 71 points for Oregon.
The Bulldogs kept pace early with the Ducks thanks to the pesky play of point guard Mustafa Lawrence who had to take on a bigger role tonight due to the absence of Noah Blackwell. Early on Mustafa was a key in creating steals, fighting for loose balls and setting up his teammates including a nice dish after an offensive rebound to 7’2”, 275 pound freshman Assane Diouf for a monster slam. Mustafa struggled keeping pace in the second half with Pritchard and finished the game with six points (1-6 FG, 1-6 3PT), six assists and three steals.
Fresno made a late run in the second half to cut the lead down to nine points with about four minutes left when sophomore Forward Aguir Agau stole the ball and passed to a leading Jarred Hyder for the lay-in. That would be as close as Fresno State would cut the deficit. Aguir had a couple of highlight reel blocks for the Bulldogs preventing two Oregon fast break dunk opportunities that displayed his high flying ability. Aguir finished with eight points and three blocks in 16 minutes. Fresno State was ranked in the top 25 in 3-point field goal percentage (38%) last season, but Oregon held them to just 25 percent from deep (9-36).
Senior leader Nate Grimes aided in keeping that percentage from dropping lower by finishing with a team high 13 points in 21 minutes on 3-of-5 shooting from behind the arc. His minutes were limited in the first half due to early foul trouble.
Oregon (1-0) will take on a second Mountain West Conference opponent in Boise State (0-0) on Saturday in Eugene, OR, while Fresno State will have their first home contest against Winthrop on November 10th.