Led by freshmen Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, Oregon roared out of the gates Monday night against the Portland State Vikings, grabbing control of the game with a 13-0 run midway through the first half en route to an 80-69 victory over their Big Sky foe.
"I thought we took a step in the right direction," Head Coach Dana Altman said. "Our defensive intensity wasn't quite the same in the second half as it was the first half. Definitely a lot more talk and communication than we had Saturday or the exhibition games."
Artis led the Ducks with 16 points – including 4 of 8 from beyond the arc – and senior Carlos Emory added in 15 while helping to push the team out to a 51-33 halftime lead. Dotson chipped in nine points, six rebounds and three steals as Oregon forced 11 PSU turnovers – most of them in the first 10 minutes – and parlayed them into open looks from deep, shooting 7-10 from three for the half.
"I liked how we came out and played with good aggressiveness and passion and enthusiasm in the first half," senior E.J. Singler said. "I thought we got up and changed their offense and got them out of the things they wanted to do."
In the second half, the Ducks got sloppy at times on both ends of the court, allowing the Vikings to claw back to only a nine point deficit with 7:28 remaining. A timely three by Singler would stop the bleeding for Oregon, though it didn't mask the differences between the first and second halves for coach or player.
"I didn't think our threes were nearly as good in the first half as they were in the second half," Altman said." I didn't think our ball movement was nearly as good in the second half as it was the first."
Singler added that though the timing might be off now, things will come around on the offensive end.
"I think it's just getting to know each other a little better, hitting the open guy, getting good shots, and running through the offense," said Singler.
Oregon's next opponent is recent Sweet Sixteen participant Vanderbilt – a big step up in competition for the young team. Altman expects it to be a physical battle between two teams who are still working out the kinks with inexperienced rosters, while Singler knows that the Ducks won't get away with some of the things they did on Monday.
"Some of the mental mistakes we did today, we can't do Friday," Singler said
With a few days of practice between now and then, the Ducks will need to shore up some deficiencies in order to compete with the Commodores.