Ducks secure first win of highly-anticipated season
EUGENE, Ore. -- Dana Altman stomped up and down the bench, yelling at players to bend their knees while his Ducks built a double-digit first half lead over Army. His brand new 7-year, 18.45-million-dollar contract probably wasn’t on his mind, but maybe he was hiding something.
Gold-plated insoles? A diamond-encrusted belt? Maybe I’m reaching here, but I don’t know how else one spends money like that.
In Oregon’s 91-77 win in their season opener before a sellout crowd of 12,364, Altman looked just like the stoic pillar of strength that the Athletic Department deemed fit to trust with the future of the program. His Ducks, however, didn’t quite fit the bill of the No. 5 ranked team they have been hyped up to be.
A game that they were projected to win by more than 30 points turned out to be a little bit more nerve-racking than anticipated. Not that Oregon was ever truly in danger of losing –Army got within nine points a couple of times in the second half – but the record crowd may not have left Matthew Knight Arena with as much confidence as they had upon entering.
“We did a lot of good things early – got up 20 there in the first half,” said Altman. “I was disappointed, though, in the second half. They kind of got whatever they wanted. We have a tremendous amount of work to do going forward.”
On Tuesday, Oregon will travel to Waco, Texas, to clash with the Baylor Bears on ESPN. The Ducks won that matchup last year as the underdogs, 74-67, but this time around it may take a little bit more than an underdog-mentality to get it done on a national spotlight.
“Last year we were really licking our chops,” said Jordan Bell, who led the Ducks with six blocked shots to go along with 14 points. “I think this year we need to take that mentality like last year and realize that we are going to get everybody’s best game.”
Another thing the Ducks will need to take with them to Texas is poise. Oregon racked up 17 total turnovers in the win against Army, at home – something that will spell a sure defeat if it reoccurs on the road against a team that consistently finds itself competing in March.
“We have to figure out a way to get into another gear before Tuesday night,” said Altman. “It seems like we’ve kind of gotten stuck in a gear, and we’re having a hard time getting out of it.”
Among the facets of the game that need work, several bright spots showed themselves in the victory. Tyler Dorsey continued where he left off last year with a game-high 21 points, while four other Ducks finished in double-digits scoring as well. Oregon also tied the MKA record for most blocks in a game (13), thanks to the six from Bell, as well as four from Roman Sorkin, two from freshman Payton Pritchard, and one from Chris Boucher.
Many fans also left the arena talking about JC transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams, a 6 foot, 11-inch big man that adds to the already impressive list of “tall firs” guarding the paint for Oregon. Bigby-Williams finished the game with seven points and four rebounds in eight minutes played.
Through a less-than-excited press conference and a less-than-stellar performance, one thing remains, Oregon is 1-0. They got the job done, and in the end that is what really matters. There are things that can improve, but in November, that is always the case. Come Tuesday, we will see what this team is really going to be this year.