Abu Kigab knew what was expected when he got his first career start.
“We’ve had a few slow starts and I bring a lot of energy when I play,” Kigab said after Oregon's men's basketball team snapped a two-game losing streak by defeating Nebraska-Omaha 84-61 Saturday night in front of 8,052 at Matthew Knight Arena.
Kigab did his part, but got help from a couple of regulars in the starting lineup when Kenny Wooten went over a defender for a rebound and dunk on Oregon’s first possession before Bol Bol ducked around a defender for a scoop shot on the Ducks’ next trip down the court.
“Plays like that gets the guys going,” Kigab said. “The crowd likes it and those energy plays are a huge momentum swing that gets us going as a team.”
Then came highly touted freshman Louis King, who made his debut for the Ducks early in the first half and drove for a short jumper with his left hand before following with a three-pointer from the corner.
“Big spark,” Oregon sophomore Victor Bailey said. “He hit a few shots we have seen in practice.”
The Ducks followed with 13 straight points to end any threat of a second straight upset loss at home and spent the rest of the night trying out some new lineup combinations.
Freshman Will Richardson joined Kigab in the starting lineup for the first time with Wooten, Bol and Payton Pritchard. That left seniors Paul White and Ehab Amin coming on off the bench along with King and Bailey as Oregon got 35 points from its reserves.
“We just wanted to change things up,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “We will see on Wednesday if we want to change it again. Wanted to take a little pressure off Ehab and Paul. I felt like they were pressing a little bit as seniors trying to do the right thing.”
Wooten led the Ducks (5-3) with 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting as all three of those numbers were career highs. Six of his nine made shots were dunks.
“(Kenny) rolled to the basket and guys were looking for him and throwing it up,” Altman said. “We had not done a good job of that and we threw it up to the rim more often and let him go get a few.”
Bol had 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Ducks had a 36-13 edge on the boards. Kigab had a career-high seven rebounds while Bailey had a career-high six boards.
King, who missed the first seven games of the season while recovering from a torn meniscus, was 4-for-6 from the field, including three three-pointers, to score 11 points in 16 minutes.
“He came in right from the start and made nice plays,” Altman said. “His energy on defense was pretty good. He was anxious and hungry to play.”
Oregon was 33-for-56 from the field, including 12-for-23 on three-pointers, for a season-high shooting percentage of 58.9. The Ducks had 18 assists, led by Pritchard with seven, and 10 turnovers.
“We did a good job moving the ball and finding the open guy,” Bailey said. “We can all hit shots. We were trusting our teammates and making the right play.”