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N’Faly Dante sparks Ducks offense as they cruise past Big Sky opponent Montana Grizzlies.

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NCAA Basketball: Montana at Oregon Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Returning home from a physical and emotional overtime victory over a top-five nationally ranked team, it’s no surprise that No.8 Oregon came out as slow as they did. Even with the three days between games, the Ducks lacked a sense of urgency against the 4-5 Grizzlies.

Insert N’Faly Dante.

Up by seven with less than eight minutes remaining in the first half Oregon’s offense was out of rhythm until the Malian-born big man stepped on the floor. In Dante’s first collegiate action of his career the 6’ 11” forward dominated with his size going 4-5 in the first half. Capping it off with a ferocious alley-oop from Anthony Mathis. The Ducks went from up seven to up 14 with the big-man down low providing a spark of energy in the first half. Helping close down a 12-2 run.

Oregon struggled shooting the ball from three in the first half, going 3-13 from beyond the arch. Fortunately, they were capitalizing off turnovers all game giving them a comfortable 37-24 lead at half.

The Ducks would breathe life once again in the second half. Their three-fourth and full-court press defense disturbed Montana’s offense greatly. It even brought five-star freshman CJ Walker back from a quiet first half with an insane alley-oop of his own assisted by JUCO-transfer Chris Duarte.

Walker has an enormous amount of talent and athleticism, but struggles to put it together on a consistent basis. He’s slowly developing into a star and could easily become a focal-point of this Dana Altman offense in the future.

An emphatic dunk by Walker, tremendous effort on the defense end and sharp shooting led to a 20-4 run, nearly wiping the Grizzlies from extinction to a 81-48 final.

Oregon turned their three-point shooting around in the second half hitting 5-8 (62.5%) from deep. It was a strong showing from the role players like Francis Okoro, Will Richardson and others. With 12 points Okoro matched his career-high 12 points while setting a new career high with 17 rebound. His low-post counterpart, Dante finished his night with 11 point, going 5-8 from the floor. Their size and strength was too great for a much smaller mid-major team like the Grizzlies.

Richardson and Payton Pritchard both led the team with 14 points. Richardson however bested Pritchard in three-point shooting percentage, hitting 2-3, while Dana Altman’s floor general hit 2-4. Duarte was the fifth and final Duck to score double-digits with 12 in the dominating win over Montana.

Giving even more credit to the role players in the lop-sided victory, Oregon’s bench scored 31 points while the Ducks outscored Montana 46-24 in the paint. They also doubled the Grizzlies points off turnovers 26-12. A slow start turned into a dominant performance as the Ducks have only held an opponent to less than 50 points one other time this season.

The first of a three-game home stand is in the record books. They’ll face Texas Southern and Alabama State before starting their conference schedule, beginning on the road with Colorado and Utah. Oregon faces Texas Southern, Saturday before a much deserved holiday break.