After months and months of waiting and rescheduling, the No. 21 Oregon men’s basketball team finally tipped off the 2020-2021 season on Wednesday night.
The Ducks were on the road in Omaha, Nebraska facing the Missouri Tigers.
One team looked like they had already played a game this season and the other team was Oregon. Missouri defeated Oral Roberts 91-64 back on November 25.
On Wednesday, the Ducks (0-1) fell to the Tigers (2-0) by a final score of 83-75.
Oregon’s on-court chemistry will take some time, especially for a roster that experienced some serious turnover from last season. For the past four seasons, head coach Dana Altman had Payton Pritchard at his disposal.
But that era - as great as it was - has come to and end and this team will have to figure out its new identity.
It was also announced minutes ahead of tipoff that Will Richardson, who would have likely replaced Pritchard at starting point guard this season, underwent successful thumb surgery on Wednesday and is expected to miss approximately six weeks.
So without Richardson, who was the most experienced Duck to return this season, the Ducks looked sporadic. Senior Chris Duarte, sophomore Chandler Lawsom and sophomore N’Faly Dante were the only the Ducks to play last season and also play on Wednesday.
There was one bright spot, however, that Duck fans should be happy to see: Eugene Omoruyi.
The 6’6”, 235-pound redshirt-senior forward transferred from Rutgers and had to sit out all last season. His junior season, Omoruyi averaged 13.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
In his Oregon debut, he recorded a career-high 31 points (hitting 10-for-19 from the field) and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Without Omoruyi’s effort, the Ducks “would have been real toast,” Altman said after the game.
“He was by far the brightest spot competitive wise, toughness wise. He made up for a lot of guys. Just an unbelievable effort. Unbelievable effort. I thought he played hard and played well.
“He’s been our hardest worker in practice. He’s done a tremendous job. I though he’d play well tonight and he sure did… He just tried to do everything for us. It was a really, really good effort.”
Although Omoruyi was the star on the floor tonight, the Ducks have a lot of work to do and that was evident. Altman knew it heading into this game. Despite Oregon committing seven turnovers in the first half which led to 11 points for Missouri, there were some positives to be taken away from the game: after getting drastically out-rebounded in the first half, the Ducks came out on top of that statistical category, 39-36.
Oregon also had 16 second chance points, compared to Missouri’s eight, representing hustle and effort.
It was only the first game of the season.
Like former Oregon Football running back Kenjon Barber said, and as many Duck fans know, Altman will have his crew ready come Pac-12 tournament and March Madness time.
The Ducks (0-1) will next play the Seton Hall Pirates at 6 p.m. (PT) on Friday, December 4 in Omaha, Nebraska.