Although Men’s Basketball head coach Dana Altman has been known for getting the best out of his transfer players and newcomers, it was a trio of returning Ducks that helped Oregon overcome a tough fight from UC Riverside to win 71-65.
In the second half, Will Richardson, Eric Williams, and N’Faly Dante, all members of last year’s Sweet 16 team, scored 21 of the team’s 29 points. With the game tied at 58 with just over seven minutes remaining, Dante made one of two free throws to put the Ducks up for good.
After forcing two consecutive shot clock violations on defense, Williams hit a jumper to push the lead to three with 5:22 left. After a missed shot from the Highlanders, Richardson scored on a layin to give Oregon a two-possession lead and the separation it needed to hold on down the stretch.
After woeful shooting performances in the Maui Invitational last week, the Ducks were able to finish the game shooting a respectable 55% from the field and were 9 of 21 from three-point range.
UC Riverside shot 52% from the field for the game but were only 4 of 17 from beyond the arc. They ended the game with six consecutive misses.
Richardson shot 7 of 12 from the field for a game-high 17 points, Dante had 12 points and five rebounds and Williams added 11 points and eight rebounds as the Ducks improved to 5-3. Dominick Pickett scored 15 points for UC Riverside and Callum McRae and Zyon Pullin each came away with 12 points. The Highlanders are 5-4 after the loss.
Oregon will next have two unusually early conference games against Arizona State and at Stanford on consecutive Sundays before finishing with a trio of non-conference opponents at home prior to diving into full-time Pac 12 play.
Although the Ducks have shown life after falling apart in Las Vegas, it will be extremely important for Oregon to put together good games against conference opponents so early in the season. Entering January already with a .500 or even an 0-2 record in Pac-12 play is not something the Ducks need to have to climb their way out of if they want to have a chance at a favorable seed in the NCAA Tournament in March, if even a seed at all.