Thu, 21 Jan 2021

No. 21 Oregon finds a foe, opens against Missouri

Field Level Media
01 Dec 2020, 10:55 GMT+10

No. 21 Oregon will finally open its season Wednesday night when it faces Missouri in Omaha, Neb.

The Ducks (24-7 last season) were supposed to host Eastern Washington on Nov. 25, but two positive tests in the Eagles' program caused that game to be canceled.

Missouri (1-0) and Oregon were set to play in a multi-team event in Orlando, but that event fell through. So did their plans to play in South Dakota. So did plans to play at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut.

Finally, Altman arranged games at CHI Health Center in Omaha, where he coached at Creighton from 1994-2010. After playing Missouri, the Ducks will face Seton Hall there Friday and perhaps a third team on Sunday.

"It's been a long preseason," Altman said. "We fought through it all, just trying to get to Wednesday. We need to play a game. Guys want to play a game, heck I want to play a game. We need to play somebody else.

"It's been a long period with no games, no scrimmages, no outside competition. Basketball teams just aren't used to that. It's been really different for our team. Missouri has played a game and we haven't. It is what it is."

The Tigers defeated Oral Roberts 91-64 in their season opener Nov. 25.

"They are very experienced," Altman said of the Tigers. "They have four starters back, 10 upperclassmen. It's obviously not the game we wanted to have to open up with, but it is what it is."

Missouri's seasoning showed against Oral Roberts. Senior guards Mark Smith (18 points) and Dru Smith (16 points, six assists, five rebounds, four steals) starred, as did junior guard Xavier Pinson (17 points, four assists).

The Tigers hit 10 of 25 shots from 3-point range in the opener after shooting just 29.7 percent from behind the arc last season. They also played at a much quicker tempo than a year ago.

"Our pace is way faster in practice," Pinson said. "We're getting there. Our bigs are running tremendously. We just got to get our wings and people like me and the rest of the point guards running consistently and running ahead."

Senior center Jeremiah Tilmon gives the Tigers a strong inside presence when he stays out of foul trouble. He had 12 rebounds, eight points and two steals in 28 minutes against the Golden Eagles.

"We'll play hard. We'll defend. We'll do all those things," Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. "But when we're making shots we're a different team. You have to make shots if you want to be one of the better teams. If not, it's like a boxing match."

Oregon also features a veteran team, but one with multiple transfers. Senior guard Amauri Hardy (UNLV), senior forward Eugene Omoruyi (Rutgers) and junior forward Eric Williams Jr. (Duquesne) will play key roles.

As of Monday, senior wing player LJ Figueroa (St. John's) and sophomore guard Aaron Estrada (St. Peter's) have not received their waivers to play immediately.

Senior guard Chris Duarte (who averaged 12.9 points, 5.6 rebounds per game last year) and junior guard Will Richardson (11.0 points per game) are the top Oregon incumbents for a squad that lost consensus All-American point guard Payton Pritchard.

"I think we should be pretty good, eventually," Altman said. "I don't even know what to expect this week. When you haven't played any games, this is so non-typical of any preseason. We didn't have all summer to work. Missed first couple weeks practice with guys out. I don't know what to expect."

--Field Level Media

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