Opening Night A Success For Ducks
EUGENE, Ore. — Throughout this preseason, UO coaches and teammates have talked up the offseason progress of N'Faly Dante. On Monday evening, he backed up their praise.
Dante had 16 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth career double-double, leading four scorers in double figures as the Oregon men's basketball team opened its season with an 80-45 win over Florida A&M in Matthew Knight Arena. Keeshawn Barthelemy scored 13 points and Will Richardson added 11, with each veteran guard making a pair of three-pointers, and Nate Bittle added 10 points off the bench, all in the second half.
Freshman Kel'el Ware added eight points, five rebounds and three blocked shots for the Ducks, who broke the game open with a 14-0 run midway through the second half. The Ducks forced 12 turnovers after halftime, with Dante recording four steals in the half, and they shot .516 in the second half to overcome a 16-of-28 free-throw shooting performance on the night.
"It felt great," said Dante, who finally enjoyed a healthy offseason of workouts this summer. "Since I've been at Oregon I've never had a summer to work out with the team. I was glad to have that, and also glad to have a team that trusts me and can pick me up."
How It Happened: Barthelemy and Dante each had five points during a 10-2 run that gave the Ducks a 14-7 lead in the opening minutes. It was 21-13 when Dante put home back-to-back buckets for the Ducks, and transfer Tyrone Williams added two more to make it 29-13.
That gave the Ducks their largest lead of the first half. Florida A&M put together an 8-2 run to close within 33-25 before Rivaldo Soares completed a three-point play to send Oregon into halftime with a 36-25 lead.
The lead remained 11 early in the second half at 46-35, when the Ducks really got rolling. Ware hit his first career three-pointer to spark a 14-0 run that included a three by Barthelemy and two buckets by Williams. After the Rattlers scored a couple of times to blunt Oregon's momentum, the Ducks scored another seven straight to go up 69-39, with Bittle providing five points including a three-pointer.
In the game's waning minutes, Richardson hit two three-pointers during an 8-0 run to give the Ducks their biggest lead of the night at 77-41.
What It Means: The Ducks were thin due to injuries, but the experience of the roster perhaps showed with the way Oregon locked down to put the game away after halftime.
"I did like our defensive intensity in the second half," UO coach Dana Altman said. "Usually our second half can be a little shaky with communication and talk, but I thought Will, Dante, Quincy, some of our vets, we didn't have as many communication mistakes."
Notable: The Ducks played without transfers Jermaine Couisnard and Brennan Rigsby due to injuries, and also were without returners Lök Wur and Ethan Butler. Altman said that quartet will be out "for a while." ... Florida A&M is coached by Robert McCullum, who was on staff with the Ducks from 2014-17. … Monday's game was part of the inaugural Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series, a collaboration between the two conference's basketball programs to meet on the court and participate in educational opportunities on subjects including equality and social justice.
Up Next: The Ducks host UC Irvine in Matthew Knight Arena on Friday (8 p.m., Pac-12 Network).