It is an insufficient salve, but Oregon’s Men’s Basketball team showed real toughness and resilience this afternoon at the Chiles Center in Portland, beating Villanova 74 - 67. This was the 7th-place game in the Phil Knight Invitational, and both teams came in having lost their opening 2 games in the tournament. Oregon faced the additional challenge of having lost both N’Faly Dante (concussion) and Nate Bittle (foot) in Friday’s loss to Michigan State. The Ducks had only 6 “scholarship” players available for this game along with 7 “walk-ons.” Like the soccer team earlier this Fall, men’s basketball has suffered a bewildering number of injuries. Quincy Guerrier and Will Richardson, Jr. again stepped up to lead the Ducks with 21 and 19 points respectively. Lok Wur came off the bench for 8 crucial points and 4 rebounds. Walk-on Gabe Reichle started at guard and scored 3 points with 6 rebounds. Oregon led almost wire-to-wire in what is probably the team’s best performance of the young season.
As with many of these early-season games, both teams got off to a slow start. Kel’el Ware’s hook in the lane was Oregon’s only basket for almost 4 minutes. A Guerrier 3-pointer and another Ware basket inside gave the Ducks a 7 - 4 lead at 15:38. Guerrier’s basket included his 1000th career point. Oregon was very active on defense early and for most of the game and forced some hurried and/or under pressure shots from Villanova. The Ducks opened up a 15 - 6 lead over the next couple of minutes, during which the Wildcats missed a 3, had a layup blocked inside and turned the ball over on a Richardson steal.
Guerrier hit 2 more 3-pointers during this sequence, and Richardson drove and was fouled, making 2 free throws. Oregon moved out to its first 10-point lead at 23 - 13 at 9:04 on two Rivaldo Soares free throws. Oregon also had good success on the offensive glass. On one possession, Richardson’s shot was blocked out of bounds, but Oregon put up two shots from close-in after the inbounds pass and then had Villanova kindly tip the ball into the basket, giving the Ducks a 25-16 lead at 5:50. After Oregon took a 30 - 21 lead on a Ware dunk on a lob from Richardson, Villanova hit 2 threes, and turned a 4-point play by hitting 2 of 3 free throws on a 3-point shot foul, getting the rebound and hitting a layup. Despite this barrage, Richardson made another drive and layup with 28 seconds in the half to bring the score to Oregon 35 - 31 which would hold up as the halftime score when both teams missed 3-pointers in the waning seconds.
For the half, Richardson netted 10 points, 4 assists and 0 turnovers. Guerrier added 9 points and 4 rebounds and Ware scored 8 points and also had 4 rebounds. Oregon’s shooting was quite a bit better than Friday with the Ducks hitting 41.4% overall and 40% from beyond the 3-point arc. Oregon also made all 5 of their attempts from the free throw line, where they have also struggled at times.
Oregon came out strong from the locker room after halftime. Despite a couple of turnovers, Oregon’s defense was causing problems for Villanova and the Cats shooting touch was hot-and-cold. Oregon went up 42 - 33 at 16:54 on a Guerrier 3-pointer and two Ware baskets inside.
As the half wore on, Villanova began finding its shooting touch, but Oregon also continued to score and to pound the offensive glass. On one sequence, Oregon missed a 3, rebounded, missed another 3, rebounded and had the ball knocked out of bounds off Villanova on a drive. On the Oregon inbound, Villanova was then called for a non-shooting foul and Rivaldo Soares hit a 3-pointer on the re-start. This gave Oregon a 50 - 42 lead with 12:16 left in the game.
Oregon maintained about an 8-point lead, with the score still 59 - 51 after a Wur free throw at 8:06. Villanova made its only really strong run at the Ducks beginning with their next possession. The Wildcats forged a 64 - 64 tie by going on a 13 - 5 run as the Ducks missed shots inside and out.
Villanova actually took the lead - their first since they led 4 - 2 at 16:39 of the first half - at 67 - 64 after running out on a missed Oregon 3 and hitting their own 3 in transition. A clutch Guerrier 3-pointer tied the game again at 2:08 and Oregon would score 7 more points mostly by drawing fouls on drives to the basket while shutting out Villanova the rest of the way to win 74 - 67.
For the game, Guerrier led Oregon with 21 points and Richardson had 19. Ware and Soares added 13 and 10 points respectively. The short-handed Ducks outrebounded Villanova 42 - 30 with Guerrier and Soares grabbing 8 boards each. Richardson again had 8 assists as he did against Michigan State and had only 3 turnovers. Oregon shot 44.1 percent from the field, and 37.9 percent from the 3-point line. They went 11 - 16 from the free throw line.
Oregon (3-4) opens Pac-12 play against Washington State on Thursday in Eugene, and then travels to play the UCLA Bruins in Los Angeles next Sunday.
A note about injuries
Injuries are an unfortunate fact of life in most sports. Winning this game today, given the huge amount of talent that just wasn’t available was impressive. Players who may not have expected to play a lot this season had to step up and play long minutes. Oregon used only 8 players.
N’Faly Dante is in the NCAA’s Concussion Protocol. This kind of injury is something that is beginning to be taken very seriously by sports at all levels as it should be. Athletes in the protocol are typically assessed on a day-to-day basis to determine progress along their recovery path. Athletes are slowly allowed to participate, first in very short periods of light non-sports-related activity, progressing when they are symptom-free for 24 hours to the next stage which involves longer periods of cardiovascular work and more sports-related activities. The level or type of activity that might cause a return of symptoms (headaches, dizziness, inability to concentrate, ocular dysfunction, etc) can be different for each athlete. Dante will be off the court for a while - protocol calls for a minimum of one week assuming progress through the stages - but is likely to take longer. His absence now will serve his long-term health. ATQ wishes all the injured Ducks a speedy recovery.