It didn’t take long for five-star freshman Bol Bol to make his mark for the Ducks.
After a subpar beginning in the season opener on Tuesday, Bol was unstoppable for the Ducks on Friday night, leading Oregon to an 81-47 victory over Eastern Washington in its first game of 2K Empire Classic. He finished with a career-high 23 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks, and plenty of jaw-dropping highlights a 7-foot-2 athlete shouldn’t be able to do.
“It was pretty natural trying to adjust… having him (Bol) be able to block shots makes things a lot easier for me,” Kenny Wooten, Oregon’s shot-blocking specialist, said of Bol. “I knew he was going to do well but it’s just about how well he was going to do early… I’m just happy for him.”
Payton Pritchard finished with 10 points but added eight assists and four rebounds, controlling the pace and tempo of the game.
Ehab Amin added 13 points while Paul White chipped in 11 as they combined to shoot 6-of-13 from beyond the arc.
“Last game was my first official game in a year and a half, so it felt good being out there and finally getting to the hoop a little bit,” Amin said. “My coaches and teammates have been giving me confidence — even though my shots haven’t been falling — so it was good to see it finally falling.”
Eastern Washington, who finished with 34 points in a loss to Syracuse earlier in the week, was led by Cody Benzel and his 16 points (5-of-11 from three-point territory).
Bol got the game started with a dunk but the Eagles surprised the Ducks by jumping out to a 7-6 lead early on.
Led by Bol and Pritchard, the Ducks responded with a 24-0 run over the next 10:30 to take a resounding lead. Bol and Pritchard combined for 12 of the points, but it was the effort Oregon had on the defensive side of the ball that made the difference.
“I thought our activity was pretty good… I thought we had some pretty good switches,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said.
The Ducks led 35-15 at the break.
The second half was much of the same, but the Eagles found more success shooting the three-ball, knocking 9-of-21.
Altman was encouraged by the play of freshman point guard Will Richardson, who’s still dealing with an injured foot.
When Pritchard and Bol both went to the bench midway in the second half, Richardson guided the second unit to an 11-0 run over the next two minutes. He scored or assisted on all of the buckets, but more impressively, had no problem being the assertive floor general Atman loves to have in his point guards.
“I was really excited about his 12 minutes… he really made some good plays,” Altman said of Richardson. “The ball movement was good, he had a couple really good looks into the post.”
The highlight of the second half came when Bol caught the ball on the left wing and then drove to the hoop, using a spin move that caused the Eastern Washington player to fall on the ground, before he finished with a dunk.
For the game, Oregon shot 30-of-61 (49.2-percent) from the field and 10-of-25 (40-percent) from beyond the arc. But Altman alluded to the Ducks taking bad shots, particularly from three-point territory, that gets the offense out of rhythm.
Defensively, the Ducks held Eastern Washington to 15-of-65 (23.1-percent) from the field and 13-of-45 (28.9-percent) from three-point territory. While the Ducks got lax in the second half, struggling to find shooters in transition, the low-post defense was good with the length of Bol, Kenny Wooten, Paul White and Francis Okoro down low.
Oregon now travels to New York to face Iowa on Thursday, November 15 at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Empire Classic. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.
The Ducks will face either No. 16 Syracuse or UConn in the next game, depending on the results from Thursday.