Eugene, OR – Oregon broke open a close game with a 13-2 run midway through the second half and came away with a 74-60 win over Washington State in their Pac-12 opener on Thursday night. N’Faly Dante scored a season-high 22 points, 16 in the second half, and added a team-high seven rebounds in only 24 minutes of play to lead the Ducks. Will Richardson was very effective at point guard, adding 17 points, eight assists and three steals against only two turnovers. 6-11 Mouhamed Gueye was impressive for the Cougars scoring 19 points, 17 in the first half, on 8-of-12 from the field.
The Ducks had eight scholarship players available for this game, an improvement from their last game in Portland against Villanova when only six were available. Juco transfer Brennan Rigsby got his first action of the season and did a nice defensive job in 21 minutes of play. Rigsby grabbed six rebounds, scoring his only points on a put-back dunk and added two steals while helping hold down Washington State’s leading scorer TJ Bamba. The 6-5 Bamba came into the game averaging over 17 points per game and shooting over 56 percent from deep, 21st in the country. He was held to 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting, scoring all of his baskets at the rim and was limited to one three-point attempt, which was unsuccessful.
In an extended 34 minutes of court time Rivaldo Soares played his best all-around game of the year. Soares scored only eight points, missing his three attempts from deep, but added seven assists, five rebounds and two steals along with some good defense. Freshman center Kel’el Ware didn’t play his best, finishing with eight points and four rebounds in 26 minutes. Ware had two thunderous dunks in the first half but was only 1-of-4 in the second half. He missed his two three-point attempts and missed a 15-foot fall-away jumper where he had no reason to move away from the basket. He has to understand that not many defenders have his height, reach or skill.
Oregon won despite continuing to shoot poorly from deep, going only 3-of-18. The Ducks are making only 28.6 percent of the 3-point attempts, 323rd in the nation. They helped themselves by sharing the ball well, generating 16 assists on 32 made baskets compared to only five assists from the Cougars. They also forced 17 turnovers and committed only 11.
The teams ended the first half tied at 32 and Oregon trailed 44-40 before going on their 13-2 run. A three-pointer from Quincy Guerrier (12 points) put the Ducks up 62-52 and they took their biggest lead on a Dante dunk off a feed from Richardson that extended the lead to 14 points late in the game. Dante, returning to action after missing the Villanova game, matched his career high of 22 points, connecting on 11-of-16 from the field and being very active throughout the contest.
Oregon (4-4) will next travel to face UCLA on Sunday afternoon in a game that will be televised on ESPN. The Bruins are coming off a solid road win at Stanford where they went out to a 32-9 lead.