Francis Okoro’s six points during Sunday’s 80-62 win over Utah marked his top scoring output in a Pac-12 Conference men's basketball game.
The Oregon sophomore forward was 3-for-5 from the field in 18 minutes and also had four rebounds.
“I was really excited for myself and the team obviously,” Okoro said. “I feel confident and comfortable now. I’ve got to keep the same energy going into next week and keep the same confidence level.”
Okoro scored in double digits during three nonconference games while averaging 5.4 points in 12 games heading into Pac-12 play. He had been scoreless in five conference games while totaling 19 points in 12 Pac-12 games.
“It was good to see Franco get a couple buckets and get his head up a bit,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “With his size and physicality, finishing a couple buckets inside really helped us. He got us a 3-pointer in the first half with an offensive rebound and we really need that activity inside. … He finished a couple jump hooks.”
After a scoreless first half against the Utes, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Okoro made all three of his shots in the second half.
“When Francis gets that hook going, teams have to respect it,” Oregon senior guard Payton Pritchard said. “When Francis is confident and makes a quick move with the hook, we will live with that all day. It is all about him being confident and staying with it.”
Okoro’s father passed away in December and he returned to Nigeria two weeks ago for the funeral. After missing UO’s loss at Oregon State on Feb. 8, Okoro played a total of 26 minutes in wins over Colorado and Utah.
“At practice this week, that helped me a lot,” said Okoro, who missed a game earlier this season when he was hit by a car while standing on the sidewalk outside Matthew Knight Arena. “Some ups and downs, but I’m always ready.”
Patterson on the rise
Oregon nominated Addison Patterson for Pac-12 freshman of the week after he combined for 16 points, five assists, three rebounds, three steals and two blocks in wins over Colorado and Utah. The 6-6 guard was 7-for-11 from the field.
“He gives us a big lift, no doubt,” Altman said. “He had three assists (against Utah). There was a play in the first half when Payton had it going and Addison had an open 3 from the top and he gave it to Payton. That was really unselfish. He has come a long way. I’m really happy. I told him that I hope he takes it on the road because that energy he gave us was really important.”
Patterson played 17 minutes against Utah, his high for a Pac-12 game, while scoring 10 points.
“He is coming into the gym earlier and being more consistent,” Pritchard said. “I think that is the recipe to success. He has been doing that and it is why his level of play is going up. He has to keep doing that and growing as a player and he will be fine.”
Oregon injury update
UO freshman forward Chandler Lawson played only six minutes against Utah because he was poked in the eye early in the second half after picking up two quick fouls in the first half. Altman said Lawson was dealing with blurriness after the game, but expects him to be ready when the 14th-ranked Ducks (20-6, 9-4) visit Arizona State (17-8, 8-4) at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Freshman center N’Faly Dante has missed seven straight games due to a knee injury and his status remains unclear moving forward. Dante, who is averaging 6.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in nine games, went through a shootaround before Thursday’s win over Colorado and “did move around a little bit”, according to Altman, but was not ready to return against the Utes.
Pritchard makes the cut
Pritchard is one of 30 players named to the Naismith Trophy midseason team and one of 12 finalists for the Oscar Robertson Trophy. Both of those honors are given to the national player of the year.
Pritchard is the only Pac-12 player on the Robertson list while Washington’s Isaiah Stewart made the cut for the Naismith award. On Tuesday, Pritchard was named the Naismith national player of the week for his performance in the wins over Colorado and Utah. He had 15 points and a career-high 11 rebounds against the Buffaloes and 25 points against Utah.