The surging Oregon Ducks look to finish their nonconference season with a win when they host Alabama State on Sunday.
The sixth-ranked Ducks (10-2) are riding a four-game winning streak. They are heavy favorites against the Hornets (1-11), who have yet to play a home game this season.
Oregon last took the court on Dec. 21 when it survived an upset bid against the visiting Texas Southern Tigers, 84-78. The Ducks turned to their floor leader, senior guard Payton Pritchard, who scored 16 of his team’s final 18 points to tie a career high with 29 points.
The Ducks couldn’t pull away from the Tigers until crunch time, and Pritchard buried a deep 3-pointer from just inside the half-court logo that sealed the victory. Before that, Texas Southern led by 13 points in the first half and was up 69-68 in the final minutes.
Oregon’s 19 turnovers also stood out.
“I think we’ve got to learn from this, and our energy was kind of dead from the jump,” Pritchard told The Oregonian. “I think that didn’t help, so we’ve got to pick it up. … Come January and the next game, we’ve got to handle business and take care of the ball, and defensively, we’ve got to get better.”
The Ducks went into their Christmas break with an 83-4 record in nonconference games at Matthew Knight Arena. Pritchard has shined this season, leading the Ducks in scoring at 19.6 points per game. He also averages six assists and 4.3 rebounds per contest, and his 23 steals lead the team.
Pritchard is one of only two players in the nation averaging 19 points, four rebounds and six assists per game, along with California Baptist’s Milan Acquaah.
Three other Oregon players average between 10 and 11 points per game. Guard Anthony Mathis has hit 33 of 65 3-point attempts (50.8 percent), and guard Will Richardson has come on of late, as he had 18 points against Texas Southern.
But the guards aren’t the only ones making an impact. Freshman center N’Faly Dante, since gaining his NCAA eligibility earlier this month, has 17 points in 25 minutes over two games combined, and the top recruit is still rounding into game shape.
The No. 6 ranking is the Ducks’ highest since being No. 5 in March 2017. Oregon is enjoying a strong all-sports season, as its women’s team is currently No. 2 and its Rose Bowl-bound football team is No. 6.
The Hornets, meanwhile, have logged countless air miles this season playing in Washington state, Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, South Dakota, Kansas and Idaho ahead of their visit to Oregon. They will then visit Mississippi and Louisiana before finally playing at home on Jan. 11 vs. Mississippi Valley State.
Included in that run was an 86-41 loss at Kansas State on Dec. 11.
“We picked the wrong night to come in here,” Alabama State coach Lewis Jackson said, according to the K-State Collegian. “They shot it well from the perimeter, like 71 percent in the first half, 66 percent from the 3-point line. That was really tough for us.”
Senior guard Tobi Ewuosho has scored in double figures in 10 of his team’s 12 games this season, and he posted a career-high 25 points in a loss to Austin Peay, Alabama State’s most recent opponent, on Dec. 22.
After facing the Ducks, the Hornets will have played eight nonconference opponents that amassed 20 or more wins last season, including three who had 30-plus victories.
Alabama State played Oregon in Eugene two seasons ago and lost 114-56.
–Field Level Media