In different circumstances, it might be fair to wonder if No. 8 Oregon could be persuaded to take Saturday night’s visit from Texas Southern seriously.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, these Ducks figure to have their minds on business after what happened last year. That’s because Texas Southern became just the fourth nonconference team to leave Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene with a victory, pocketing a nice paycheck and an 89-84 win to boot.
While the Tigers will again head to the bank after a weekend trip to Oregon, it’s likely they’ll absorb some real lumps with this check. The Ducks (9-2) only got deeper and better Wednesday night in an 81-48 rout of Montana with the addition of 6-11 freshman center N’Faly Dante.
Dante, who sat out the team’s first nine games because the NCAA missed his clearance date and then didn’t play last Saturday in an overtime win at Michigan, needed just 14 minutes to display why he was considered a top 20 recruit nationally.
Dante delivered 11 points, including a pair of rim-rattling dunks, and two steals. Team him with Francis Okoro, who tied a career high Wednesday night with 12 points and set a career best with 17 boards, and it appears Oregon has answered concerns about its post play.
What impressed veteran coach Dana Altman even more about Dante was his passing. He assisted deftly on a 3-pointer by Chris Duarte, and could have racked up three more helpers had teammates converted on open looks.
“You can see he’s got a pretty good knack for passing,” Altman said. “I thought defensively he was a step behind, partly due to conditioning, partly the speed of the game. But you can see his natural talent. As he gets in shape and gets more of our sets, he and Francis give us that physicality we lacked.”
Factor in the continued excellence of point guard Payton Pritchard (18.7 ppg, 6.0 assists, 4.2 rebounds) and you have a team that could play into April.
Texas Southern (3-7) arrives fresh off a 91-73 loss Wednesday night at Nevada, where it trailed by just six at halftime before the Wolf Pack pulled away. Wasted was a great 32-point night by point guard Tyrik Armstrong, who was 11 of 18 from the field for a team that didn’t even make 30 percent of its shots.
Like most SWAC teams, the Tigers spend most of their nonconference season on the road. This is the second of a particularly tough four-game trip that will also send them to Arizona State and Texas A&M. They have already lost at unbeaten San Diego State and Gonzaga.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn,” Texas Southern coach Johnny Jones said of his team’s schedule. “As long as you’re learning, you’re not losing.”
–Field Level Media