Eugene, OR – On Saturday afternoon at Matthew Knight Arena, the Oregon Ducks hosted the Portland Pilots in a non-conference match. As COVID-19 continues to derail and cancel games, both squads were seeking extra competition prior to conference play launching full swing next week. After losing their opening games, both teams have reeled off five straight wins. Portland was looking to sweep both Pac-12 Oregon schools after their win against the Beavers, while the Ducks were looking to stay on their winning track.
From the opening tip, it was all Oregon. The Ducks jumped all over the Pilots leading 19-5 with 14:57 remaining in the half, due in part to scoring 11 points off five Portland turnovers. The run was led by standout senior Chris Duarte. He scored nine straight points, including sinking back-to-back three pointers, on his way to a game high of 21 points. Portland never bounced back from the early deficit, which ended in an 80-41 Oregon victory. Today marked a sixth straight win for the Ducks and gave Coach Dana Altman his 675th win, tying Louisville’s Denny Crum as 24th on the all-time wins list for college basketball.
The Ducks went with a smaller line-up due to a season-ending knee injury for N’Faly Dante giving L.J. Figueroa the start. The Ducks did not miss a beat as they applied relentless pressure. Figueroa scored seven first half points on 3-of-7 shooting and collected five rebounds in the half alone. The Ducks went into the locker room with a 35-19 lead. From the end of the first half through the start of the second half, the Ducks held the Pilots scoreless for almost a nine-minute stretch. Figueroa displayed nice touch in the paint with his floaters, made timely cuts, and was active on the glass to give the Ducks a huge lift. Statistically, the Ducks dominated the points in the paint by a count of 48-14 due in large part to Figueroa’s finishes. The highly energetic senior scored 15 points (6-for-11 FG), including six rebounds and two steals.
Duarte showed his versatility and athleticism at both ends of the floor. His pure and effortless shooting got him off to a fast start as he nailed three first half 3-pointers. He was able to spot up on multiple occasions and shoot with high efficiency. The 6-6 senior went 7-for-11 from the field, including 4-of-8 from downtown. Besides his 21 points, he added four rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. He showed great leaping ability as he had two blocks in one defensive possession. Duarte continued his stellar playmaking into the second half, when he was able to anticipate getting in the passing lane for a steal and finished with the two-hand slam. Moments later, he ended his day when Oregon got the steal and Duarte finished after a nice lob pass by Figueroa to give Oregon a 32-point lead with 13:27 remaining. Duarte’s overall performance makes him a potential pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Oregon’s leading scorer Eugene Omoruyi (19.5 ppg) only tallied 10 points, although he was perfect from the field going 4-for-4 (2-of-2 3PT). In the second half, he found other ways to contribute as he made some precision passes to cutters for easy baskets, finishing with three assists and two blocks. At 6-6, he has the ability to play both inside and out making it challenging for opponents to matchup on him. Eric Williams Jr., a redshirt junior, added just four points, breaking his six-game streak of scoring in double-digits. He did get his teammates involved by dishing out five assists, pulling down six rebounds, and collecting two steals. Overall, Oregon assisted on 21 of their 32 field goals made.
With their substantial lead, Oregon pulled their bench into the action with 6-8 sophomores Chandler Lawson and Lok Wur combined to hit on 7-of-9 attempts, scoring eight and seven points respectively. Lawson also added five rebounds. The Ducks shot extremely well, shooting 57 percent (32-of-56 FG).
The Ducks locked down starting point guard and leading scorer for the Pilots Ahmed Ali (21.7 ppg). He was held to six points going 0-for-7 from the field. The 5-11 senior made a few nice plays and caught the defense off-guard twice with pump fakes, drawing fouls both times from the 3-point line and hitting on all six free throws. As a team, Portland struggled to find any consistency on the offensive end, only shooting 21 percent from the field and making just 12-of-56 attempts.
Improvement for Oregon is needed in three-point shooting and in reducing turnovers. The Ducks are shooting only 31.7 percent on 3s, ranking only 200th in the nation. Over their last four games they shot under 20 percent from deep. Tonight was somewhat better as they shot 8-of-21 (38 percent). However, outside of Duarte and Omoruyi the rest of the team shot only 2-of-11. Figueroa, in particular, is having trouble connecting from deep. Today’s 0-of-3 lowered his average on the year to 11 percent (2-of-18). A 37 percent 3-point shooter on 330 attempts in his two years at St. John’s he should get his shot falling soon.
Oregon once again had trouble holding on to the ball, committing 19 turnovers today. Their turnover percentage is 19.4 on the year which ranks 153rd in the country, To be an elite team they will need to make better decisions, particularly in passing.
Oregon (6-1, 1-0) will stay home hosting the UCLA Bruins (5-2, 1-0) this Wednesday afternoon. The Bruins were the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 Conference. Portland (5-2, 0-0) will host the Montana State Bobcats (2-2, 0-0) in a non-conference match on December 22nd.