Francis Okoro scored a career-high 12 points, including a highlight alley-oop dunk, but found fault elsewhere following Oregon’s 78-66 win over Houston.
“I’m not pleased because we did not do a good job rebounding,” Okoro said after the Cougars had a 38-26 advantage on the boards Friday night in front of 8,095 at Matthew Knight Arena. “We’ve got to get to those rebounds. Other teams see that and come with the mindset to get rebounds.
"If we want to be the best team, want to play longer this year, we have to think about rebounding.”
Rebounding is a constant early-season talking point for Oregon men's basketball coach Dana Altman, whose concern about Houston’s physicality resulted in the Cougars getting 21 second-chance points on 17 offensive rebounds.
“We did a lot of good things, but (rebounding) takes away from a real good performance,” Altman said. “If we would not have given them second shots, our first-shot defense was really good, but 21 second-chance points takes away from that. That’s a very good offensive rebounding team, but we’ve got to learn to block out better and be more physical on the boards.”
Oregon was outrebounded by Memphis and Houston, but defeated each of the two American Athletic Conferences favorites to reach 5-0 for the first time in four seasons.
“We’re doing really great things, but at the same time there is a lot to fix,” senior guard Anthony Mathis said. “Obviously, rebounding is one of those things. I am happy, but not satisfied. We have a tough schedule coming up, so we will see who we really are.”
Next up for 11th-ranked Oregon is No. 13 Seton Hall in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Wednesday night in the Bahamas.
“This will give us a better idea of where we are at,” Altman said. “The Memphis game with their talent and athleticism and Houston with their physicality gives us an idea of what we’ve got to work on. Now we face an experienced, veteran team in Seton Hall.”
Oregon fell behind 22-14 before responding with 10 points in a row and never trailed again. The Ducks took a 32-27 lead at halftime and quickly stretched the margin to double digits before keeping it there the rest of the way.
Mathis led the way with 18 points while making 5-of-9 3-pointers. The Ducks were 10-for-21 on 3-pointers while Houston was 2-for-20.
“I thought our ball movement was really good on the 3s, we had good looks,” Altman said. “A lot of them were catch-and-shoot and not many off the dribble. Taking 21 is a good number and we’ll take 10-for-21 every night.”
Payton Pritchard scored 16 points with a game-high five assists and two steals.
“The strength of Oregon’s team is their senior point guard, he’s in complete control of every facet of their game,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, who coached at Washington State from 1987-94. “He is a tremendous college point guard. He makes up for other people’s mistakes.
"When I was in this league, I coached against Gary Payton and Terrell Brandon. He’s not as talented as those guys, but he’s every bit as effective in his own way and he’s a winner. He’s why Oregon is going to be good this year.”
Okoro made all four of his attempts from the field as the Ducks shot 54.2%. Will Richardson added 11 points and five rebounds.
Oregon led 14-13 after Addison Patterson made a free throw, but Houston followed with eight straight points. Okoro answered with a rebound basket before Chris Duarte scored five straight points and Mathis added a 3-pointer.
“We were in some trouble there, we were really stagnant,” Altman said. “They were pounding us on the boards and they were definitely the aggressor. We got a little run going there and turned it around.”
Fabian White got Houston within 39-35 early in the second half before Pritchard converted a three-point play and Mathis hit a 3-pointer. When the Cougars closed within 47-41, Mathis got a four-point play and Shakur Juiston hit a jumper before Okoro converted a three-point play to push the lead to 56-41.