No. 11 Oregon looks to avenge last season’s upset loss to Houston when the Ducks host the Cougars on Friday night.
Last year’s Cougars, unranked at the time, stunned the Ducks 65-61 in Houston last December, with the Cougars up by 20 in the first half before then-No. 18 Oregon cut the lead to two with 10 seconds left.
As it turned out, both teams made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
This season, the Ducks (4-0) haven’t played since a 67-47 win against Texas Arlington on Sunday night. The Cougars (2-1) are coming off Tuesday’s 97-89 victory against crosstown rival Rice, while their only loss came at the buzzer against BYU on Nov. 15.
The Rice game saw Houston erupt for 65 second-half points after trailing 39-32 at halftime. The Cougars took a 97-89 win behind guard Quentin Grimes’ 32 points. Guard Nate Hinton added 15 points and 11 rebounds, and a total of five players scored in double figures.
Grimes, a sophomore, transferred from Kansas after starting all 36 games for the Jayhawks last season.
“You can see our inexperience,” coach Kelvin Sampson said after the win at Rice. “Quentin… he’s still trying to figure out what color his jersey is. Nate’s a sophomore that’s one of our tough role players. We didn’t have any leadership on the floor. We’re just kind of out there right now.”
Sampson said the leadership will present itself as the season goes on.
“I like where our basketball program is, I like where it’s headed,” he added. “That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to stub our toe here a few times before Christmas.”
The Oregon program is also integrating new players, but coach Dana Altman got a longer look at some of his freshmen in Sunday’s win against UTA. The Ducks got key contributions from freshmen C.J. Walker, Addison Patterson and Chandler Lawson.
Walker grabbed eight rebounds, and Patterson scored nine points off the bench.
Leadership hasn’t been an issue with senior guard Payton Pritchard on the court. He scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds against the Mavericks.
“I think it was pretty good getting some of the newer players, our younger players, getting used to the feel of playing the game,” guard Will Richardson told The Oregonian website, “and playing minutes where the game is close, where they’re getting good minutes.”
Oregon held UTA to its worst shooting performance in school history. The Mavericks made 15 of 64 field goals (23.4 percent). It was the best defensive effort for the Ducks since holding Eastern Washington to 23.1 percent from the field last November.
Oregon is 165-20 under Altman when holding opponents under 70 points, including a 130-12 mark the last six seasons.
Pritchard is on a scoring tear to open his final season as a Duck. He is currently the only player ranked in the Pac-12’s top five in scoring (20.3 points per game) and assists (5.8 assists).
–Field Level Media