I don't know what I expected out of Oregon in the Pac-12 opener, but I certainly didn't expect this.
Oregon hit everything in sight from pretty much the first possession on. The first half was the Olu Ashaolu show, as Olu owned the paint, getting 17 points, including four posterizing dunks en route to a double double, and the Ducks took a 20 point lead into halftime. The second half was a lot of trading baskets slop, but a big half by Devoe Joseph, with 17 points of his own, kept a Cougar comeback from gaining any traction. When Nic Lucenti is playing the last couple of minutes, you know something went right.
The score is great. That Oregon consistently had a 20 point lead through most of the game, even better. That's going to happen when you shoot 70% from the field. This team isn't going to shoot like that ever again. But I knew Oregon was going to be fine on the first offensive possession of the game:
Johnathan Loyd misses a three, but Tony Woods battles, gets the offensive board, and kicks it out to EJ Singler in the corner for a three that hits. Moreso than the final score, it was the intensity with which Oregon attacked the boards that really has me excited. An Oregon team that has been a soft rebounding squad all season dominated (+9!) a pretty good rebounding WSU squad that plays three 6'10" guys. The shooting performance masks plenty of problems that still need to be addressed: 16 turnovers, bad defense on on-balls screens, poor free throw shooting (60%), but we also saw a lot of progress, and things can can be built on as the Ducks take on a very beatable Washington team on Saturday.
Olu Ashaolu -- I was wondering when the Olu Ashaolu that everyone was raving about before the season was going to show up, and today he was all that and more. He absolutely dominated the Cougar bigs down low, including the four big dunks. He seals greatly when he works for it. He also attacked the boards with a ferocity that we've not yet seen this season. 24 points on 9-11 shooting and ten boards. That's getting it done. The only down stat: 5-12 from the free throw line.
Devoe Joseph -- Devoe has been huge for this team, as it gives them a second player behind EJ Singler that can create his own shot (and a third that can hit consistently from deep). At the only point in the second half where it looked like WSU could plausibly make a run, Devoe ran up seven straight points (he had 17 overall). He also created for others, chipping in seven assists. He did force a few things, though, and the five turnovers must be improved upon.
EJ Singler -- EJ is just the same every game, and has the full stat sheet to show for it: 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists.
Tony Woods -- I really thought Tony was going to be a difference maker, but I get less impressed with him every time I see him. The guy has hands of stone. He cannot corral rebounds, and was unable to catch a pass right into his hands that would have been a wide open dunk. He has some legit post moves, and blocks shots well, but is an overall liability because he can't catch the ball.
Brett Kingma -- After a season of sparse play and poor shooting, Kingma showed why Altman gave him a scholarship, hitting 3-4 threes and having two assists in 14 minutes. Dude is terrible defensively, though, something that will have to improve before next season when he will be counted on for a bigger role.
Its also worth noting that Tyrone Nared didn't play, despite him expecting to be back after the knee injury. We'll have to keep an eye out for news about his recovery.
Next Up: Oregon travels to Seattle to take on Washington Saturday at 7 PT on ESPN2. Washington won their Pac-12 opener, a 15 point victory over Oregon State.