After winning his first 14 exhibitions at Oregon by an average of 33.4 points, Dana Altman watched the degree of difficulty go up against Western Oregon.
The Ducks were without four expected regulars in the rotation, including three potential starters, Thursday night against the Wolves.
Just as the Division II school began to reminisce about beating Oregon State four years ago while emerging from the locker room at halftime trailing the Ducks by two points, Oregon eased any concerns of the 7,697 at Matthew Knight Arena by pulling away for a 77-58 victory.
“We had a lot of different looks out there and showed we have a long ways to go,” Altman said. “We need to get some better ball-handling obviously, so a lot of things to work on.”
Highly touted freshman Bol Bol made a solid first impression on the home crowd with four dunks and a spinning three-pointer en route to a game-high 19 points with eight rebounds. Francis Okoro’s debut was less-hyped than Bol, but similar statistically with 16 points — including 14 in the second half — on 6-for-7 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.
“Francis did a great job getting offensive rebounds and putbacks,” Altman said. “He worked hard on the glass and did a tremendous job. He gave us a big lift.”
Victor Bailey added 13 points while Ehab Amin and Abu Kigab each scored 11. The Ducks shot 55.1 percent from the field, but 19 turnovers limited them to 49 shots.
With junior point guard Payton Pritchard a surprise scratch with bruised ribs and his backup, freshman Will Richardson, expected to miss a few games with a foot injury, the Ducks started Amin at the point with walk-on Will Johnson adding 14 minutes off the bench.
Portland State will see Western Oregon’s final stat line and arrive for Tuesday’s season opener feeling capable of pulling off an upset after trailing the Ducks by two in the final minutes of last year’s 95-84 loss.
“We have to come out and play hard no matter who we are playing,” Bailey said. “We came out slow, but we know the task ahead. We know we need to take every game serious.”
Oregon had seven scholarship players and two walk-ons available with Pritchard, Richardson and freshman Louis King all out due to injury while Paul White was attending a funeral in Chicago.
White will be back for the opener, and Altman said he hopes Pritchard will be available, but will wait to see how his ribs heal.
“Having a lot of guys out, we had to have some guys who don’t play as much step up and fill some of those roles,” Bailey said.
Western Oregon’s last lead was 14-12, but the Wolves got within 29-27 at halftime.
Bol opened the second half with a basket and Amin followed with a score to put Oregon up 33-27. After Kaleb Warner scored for WOU, Kigab converted a three-point play before Bol converted back-to-back baskets to put the Ducks ahead 40-29.
Western Oregon closed within 40-32 before the Ducks scored 10 in a row, beginning with a bucket from Bailey. Okoro hit two free throws and Amin scored before Okoro added consecutive hoops to push the lead to 50-32.
The Wolves closed within 59-49 with Brandell Evans heading to the free-throw line, but he missed a pair and Wooten scored at the other end before Bol slammed an alley-oop from Bailey.
“We had to get into a rhythm and that starts with defense,” Bailey said. “The defensive intensity picked up and the offense comes with it. That’s usually what happens.”