EUGENE, Oregon - Less than one hour prior to tip-off in chapter two of the 2020 Civil War series vs. the Oregon State Beavers, the Oregon Ducks announced that starting guard Chris Duarte would not be available to play due to an injury.
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30 minutes later, Duarte was in street clothes and sporting a new cast on his right hand. His shooting hand.
Replacing Duarte in the starters role was Anthony Mathis, the 6-foot-4 redshirt senior who has started the first 18 games of the season.
Just try and play a lot of defense. He’s our second-leading rebounder, so I’m trying to pick up on defense, rebounding. Pretty much just helping in any way I can. We’re so deep on offense, I’m not necessarily worried about scoring. I’m just trying to do other things to help the team get wins. — Anthony Mathis
Mathis finished with 13 points hitting 3-of-7 from three-point range, three rebounds and two assists. No. 14 Oregon (22-7, 11-5 Pac-12) snapped the three-game losing streak to rival Oregon State (15-13, 5-11 Pac-12) with a 69-54 win in Matthew Knight Arena.
Replacing Duarte is not easy. He lives big shoes out there on both ends of the court. Oregon head coach Dana Altman has no timetable for return and it’s “up to the doctors”, he told reporters following the game.
As a team, the Ducks defense really stepped up in Duarte’s absence holding their opponent, Oregon State, to a season-low 54 total points. Oregon also committed a season-low four turnovers.
While one presence will surely be missed, the Ducks welcomed back one player who has a high ceiling and a long career ahead: N’Faly Dante.
The 6-foot-11 freshman center is coming off knee tendinitis. The last time he suited up for the Ducks was back on January 18 at the Washington Huskies up in Seattle.
In his first game back, he jogged onto the court with a limited minutes restriction and a warm cheer from the Oregon faithful. Although Dante finished with zero points and two rebounds in five minutes played, he sheer presence alone on the court draws eyes inwards and leave shooters open on the perimeter.
You see him double teamed, teams really playing him hard. Dante is really skilled at that. Cause troubles offensively and defensively. We lose one, we get another one, it’s okay. — Francis Okoro said with a big smile on his face
We got him four, five minutes and that was all I planned on. He wanted to play more, but he hadn’t practiced much. Just wanted to get him started, get him back on the floor. Hopefully he’ll have a good week here. — Dana Altman
This one game weekend comes at an optimal time for Oregon.
Not only do the Ducks have two days off (according to Dana Altman who “threatened” the team if they lost to have them practice the next few days), but they have an entire week to rest and recover and finish on a strong note. In their final regular season series, Oregon will host Cal (12-16, 6-9 Pac-12) and Stanford (19-9, 8-7 Pac-12) both middle tier teams in the Pac-12 conference.
Dante will be needed against both the Bears and Cardinal who took advantage of Oregon’s smaller forwards the last time these teams met. Having Duarte back would be huge too, if the doctors say so.
Although Dante played just five minutes against Oregon State on Thursday night, he’s just getting his feet wet.