Short-Handed Ducks Find A Way

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.It took the Oregon men’s basketball team a half Monday to figure out how to execute without its two injured big man. Then, shots began to fall, and the Ducks began to roll.

Up a single point through 20 minutes, the UO men’s basketball team found its range from the three-point line and ran away from Florida A&M in the second half Monday evening. The Ducks posted a 67-54 victory in the Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series matchup, despite the absence of injured big man N’Faly Dante (leg) and Nate Bittle (wrist).

“Without Dante and Nate, a little confidence goes,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “… So we lost a little bit of that confidence there, of getting it into them and playing from there. But I like the way the guys responded. We were able to finish the game.”

Jesse Zarzuela had 14 points to lead the Ducks (4-0), and Jadrian Tracey added 13 points. Jermaine Couisnard scored 11, Keeshawn Barthelemy added 10 and Kario Oquendo finished with nine, including two three-pointers early in the second half as Oregon finally got its offense going.

How It Happened: Oregon opened the game with three straight buckets, on drives by Tracey and Barthelemy and a three-pointer from Couisnard. After the first UO miss, Kwame Evans Jr. got the rebound and finished a three-point play, as the Ducks built a 10-5 lead. But that belied the trouble the Ducks would have offensively in the half, as the UO men shot 3-of-16 the rest of the way until halftime.

Oregon was outrebound in the first half and went 12-of-18 from the free-throw line, the opening Florida A&M needed to rally into a 21-18 lead. The Ducks made just one field goal in the final 9:11 of the half, but they got some free throws to drop late and went into halftime up 28-27.

“Our guys were playing hard, we just made a lot of bad decisions offensively in the first half,” Altman said. “But we played hard; I’ve got no complaints with how hard we played. We were down on the boards at the half, came back and ended up a positive. … We just didn’t make many shots.”

A three-pointer by Tracey early in the second half came during a 9-2 run that helped Oregon open up a 37-29 lead, a run capped by a three-point play from Zarzuela. Florida A&M closed within 39-36, but the Ducks broke the game open in unusual fashion — a six-point possession on which Oquendo was fouled while making a three-pointer, missed the free throw but saw the Ducks get the rebound and find Brennan Rigsby for another three.

After a Florida A&M miss, Oquendo followed with another three, and Oregon’s lead was suddenly 48-36. The Ducks led by at least eight the rest of the way, using an 18-12 rebounding edge in the second half to maintain control despite a 22-of-36 showing on the night from the free-throw line.

Notable: Due to injury, the Ducks had just eight scholarship players available for the game. … Walk-on James Cooper came off the bench in the first half and played three minutes. … Florida A&M is coached by former UO staff member Robert McCullum.

Up Next: The Ducks remain in Florida through this week to play in the Emerald Coast Classic, beginning Friday against Santa Clara at 6:30 p.m.