Short-Handed Ducks Hosting OSU
A two-week layoff ends Saturday for the Oregon men's basketball program. Or at least, for most of the Ducks.
The No. 21 UO men (9-2, 4-1) will take the court for the first time since Jan. 9 when the Ducks host Oregon State in Matthew Knight Arena on Saturday (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network). Oregon missed a weekend of play against the Arizona schools plus a scheduled matchup with UCLA on Tuesday of this week due to COVID-19 protocols.
Two players will remain out Saturday due to those protocols. The Ducks will be without leading scorer Chris Duarte and swingman LJ Figueroa when they host the Beavers.
"We've just got to figure out a way to get a rotation," UO coach Dana Altman said Thursday, prior to the Ducks' final two practices of the week. "Guys who haven't played a lot of minutes for us are obviously going to have to step in."
Oregon's roster of 12 scholarship players will be down by one-third Saturday, with injured veterans Will Richardson and N'Faly Dante sidelined along with Duarte and Figueroa. Richardson has had the cast removed from his injured thumb and is going through rehab, but he won't be ready to play by Saturday, Altman said.
On the bright side, freshman guard Jalen Terry should see his first action since Dec. 19. Terry rejoined the team when practices resumed Monday following the program-wide pause due to COVID-19 protocols.
Another freshman, Franck Kepnang, could be needed for extended minutes Saturday after making his debut with a brief appearance in Oregon's most recent game, a win at Utah on Jan. 9. In the absence of Dante, Kepnang provides some much-needed size for the Ducks.
But he's still getting up to speed after joining the program in December.
"He's handled it really well," Altman said. "I love working with him; he tries to do everything the coaching staff asks him to do. He's really coachable, easy to work with.
"He's really talented. I think he has a big-time future. It's just hard to make that adjustment so quickly."
Oregon's non-scholarship players also could be called upon Saturday. Eddy Ionescu has been battling a non-COVID-19 illness, Altman said, but the team could need some minutes from Will Johnson, Luke Osborn and Gabe Reichle, whose brother Zach is on the OSU roster.
The Beavers come into Saturday at 7-5 overall and 3-3 in conference play. They've won two in a row, both at home, over Arizona State and then Tuesday against USC.
The Ducks bring a 28-game home win streak into Saturday's rivalry game, the second-longest in program history and the fourth-longest active streak in the nation. If that streak is to continue, Oregon will have to win short-handed on Saturday.
"We'll get ready," Altman said. "There's no excuses, no anything. Just, you go play. I hope our guys will take that attitude and just go play."