EUGENE, Oregon — The Ducks opened the season with a 70-54 victory against Coppin State on Friday night. With the win, Oregon extended their nation-best home win-streak to 43 consecutive games from Matthew Knight Arena. The Ducks haven’t lost at home since 2015.
Dana Altman altered his starting five during the exhibition season. Yet, he opened the 2017-18 regular season with Payton Pritchard, Elijah Brown, Troy Brown, MiKyle McIntosh and Roman Sorkin on the floor.
Sorkin led all scorers with a career-high 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field. The Israeli knocked down 4-of-5 from 3-point territory, including all three from the charity stripe. His performance was coupled by seven boards, two dimes and a blocked shot.
The senior broke his previous career-high (15) from last season against Western Oregon. Overall, he recorded 73 total points in 2016-17.
“He hit some shots,” Altman stated. “It’s only one phase of the game. Defensively, I thought he was really sharp. He did score very well.”
Troy Brown was the other story of the night, as the true freshman entertained the Matthew Knight Arena crowd with 12 points, four boards and an assist in his first half of college basketball
“Troy had a great showing,” said Pritchard. “He’s a great player.”
He made quite the first impression at the collegiate level. The 5-star kid impressed, totaling 18 points on 50 percent (6-of-12) from the floor. He added five rebounds and two assists. The Vegas native played a team-high 32 minutes alongside Pritchard.
Sorkin, Brown and Pritchard were only Ducks to finish in double figures. In fact, Oregon’s big three accounted for 51 of their 70 total points (73 percent) on Friday.
The Ducks secured their first win of the campaign after a strong first half. However, the second 20 would not be the same game. Overall, Oregon shot 44 percent from the floor (26-of-59) and 28 percent from deep, but they were outscored in the second half.
“We didn’t do a good job defensively,” said Altman. “We weren’t very well organized. Defensively, we need some volunteers to step up. We knew that coming in.”
After a surge of offensive scoring, the Ducks entered the locker room at halftime leading the Eagles 42-14. Oregon held Coppin State to 14 percent (4-of-28) shooting in the first 20 minutes. It’s possible Oregon eased off the gas after halftime.
Sorkin was remarkable from the start, tallying a career-high 18 points in the first half. The senior big man set the nets ablaze on 6-for-7 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from downtown.
Midway through the first half, Brown made a spin move to lose his defender and drove the lane. As he entered the paint, the entire defense converged on him. With great ease, he dropped a perfect pass to Sorkin underneath the basket for the bucket plus the foul. Get used to that.
The final 20 minutes were a different story, as poor shooting told the tale. CSU outscored the Ducks 40-28 in the second half.
“It’s everything,” Altman replied. “The mentality has to change. We’ve got a lot of work to do on the defensive end. Our communication was really bad in the second half.”
Oregon scuffled from the field in the form of 18 percent shooting (2-of-11) from downtown in the final 20 minutes. Overall, UO shot a miserable 28 percent (8-of-29) from 3-point territory.
“Our ball movement has to get better from everyone,” replied the UO head coach. “Two seniors that didn’t shoot well have been shooting well in practice.”
As for the former NCAA Champion from Maryland, Juan Dixon is the head coach of a fearless group who fought back valiantly in the second half.
Tre Thomas and Dejuan Clayton led the way for CSU with 13 points each. Thomas buried 3-of-6 from downtown, keeping his team afloat during spurts.
“We’ve got to guard,” Altman stated. “We’ve got 13 guys in the locker room that think their main role is to score. What they think is important and what’s actually important are two different things.”
As for the West Linn product, he registered 10 points (4-of-7), eight boards and four dimes. Yet, he was not happy with the overall performance of the team after the game. Assuming a new leadership role, the sophomore is being more vocal this year.
“It was just bad,” said Pritchard after the win. “We’re not very big in size. We have to play better on defense. We don’t have Jordan (Bell) or Chris (Boucher). The shooting will come.”
Elijah Brown concluded with four points on 20 percent shooting from the floor. He made two of his 10 attempted shots in his debut with the Ducks. He was 0-for-4 from downtown, but he will get better quickly. Brown recorded four boards and four assists.
McIntosh was 3-for-11 from the field and finished with six points in 25 minutes. The Illinois State transfer did not register a make from downtown, going 0-for-5 in the game. The senior added four boards, two assists and a blocked shot.
Victor Bailey Jr. was 0-for-3 from the field in his first collegiate action. That first bucket is always the toughest.
Joining him was fellow true freshman Abu Kigab, who struggled with two points. He found himself with two quick fouls in the first half, derailing his evening.
True freshman Kenny Wooten debuted with five points in 16 minutes of action. He was perfect from the field (1-for-1) and 3-of-4 from the free throw line. Wooten collected two rebounds, an assist and his first collegiate blocked shot.
Keith Smith came off the bench for two points and four boards. He was 1-for-2 from the floor in 13 minutes of action.
“We’ll practice on Sunday,” Altman said without hesitation. “We’ll need to play better on Monday. Prairie View has an experienced team.”
The third transfer of the bunch, Paul White did not play on Friday night. He was dealing with a foot injury, but should be ready for the next game.
“(Paul) White’s foot bothered him,” said Altman after the game. “Just decided to hold him back. I think he’ll be ready to go Monday.”
The Golden State Warriors assistant coach was in the house on Friday. Mike Brown was in town to watch his son, Elijah. The two spoke after the game, as the NBA coach knows his game better than anyone.
In other Oregon basketball news, redshirt freshman M.J. Cage seems to have changed his mind about leaving the program. For now, he’s back with the squad. It’s going to be a long road for him, but he can definitely earn his minutes back. The kid has talent, no question about it.
Next up for Oregon (1-0) is Prairie View A&M on Monday night at Matthew Knight Arena. The Ducks will be looking to extend their incredible home win-streak to 44 games. Tip is slated for 6:00 p.m. PT via the Pac-12 Network.