Oregon finished the non-conference schedule with a good 96-82 win over Central Arkansas inside Matthew Knight Arena.
The Ducks will now go into the Pac-12 season with a 10-3 record and enter into the holiday break playing their best basketball of the year.
Central Arkansas isn’t the normal non-conference cupcake and the Bears didn’t play like it. They scared UCLA before losing in overtime 106-101 before defeating Cal 96-69 in Berkeley.
It’s not often a player who scores 35 points on 12-of-17 with eight treys gets overshadowed by an opponent, but Payton Pritchard manages to do it.
Central Arkansas’ Jordan Howard lit it up from the field and just missed one three-point attempt. His threes weren’t just stepping up to the arc and making shots. Howard was draining threes from 30 and 35 feet on a regular basis.
His shooting alone kept the Bears in the game, but Pritchard’s overall game was too much for the team from the Southland Conference. Oregon’s sophomore point guard scored 24 points, dished out eight assists and brought down six rebounds.
Many of those assists went to Mikyle MacIntosh, who had 17 points and six rebounds. Troy Brown added 14 and MJ Cage scored a career high 11 points. Cage got more playing time since Paul White missed the contest die to being in the concussion protocol.
The Ducks shot the ball well all night long as they made 62 percent from the field on 36-of-58 shooting, including 12-of-20 from long range.
Both teams started making shots as soon as the ball was tipped and they put on a shooting display in the first half. It featured the Ducks going on a 21-2 run at one point and Howard scoring 22 points on a perfect 6-of-6 from behind the three-point line.
Oregon, not to be outdone by the visitors, shot 73 percent (22-for-30) from the field in the first 20 minutes of action. Pritchard led the Ducks with 16 as his team went into the locker room with a 55-40 halftime advantage.
With the non-conference season over, Oregon can now concentrate on a long and grueling league schedule. The media picked the Ducks fourth in the Pac-12.
Whether they live up to that billing with heavily depend on if this team continues to gel. With nine newcomers playing significant minutes, it’s taken some time to develop team chemistry.
Thankfully for Oregon, this team has shown signs that the chemistry will be there. Coupled with the tremendous talent on the roster, Oregon could be a very difficult team to play come February and March.
~ Don Smalley