Five games into the college basketball season and the Oregon Ducks have proven two things about themselves.
When Bol Bol and Payton Pritchard play well, Oregon is near unbeatable with a 4-0 record in those games. But when they struggle, the Ducks are 0-1, looking like a completely different team with no direction and no leadership.
Bol and Pritchard will have the chance to prove themselves again when No. 21 Oregon (4-1) hosts Texas Southern (1-4) on Monday, November 26 at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.
The 7-foot-2 Bol leads Oregon with 19.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game, largely living up to the hype as the country’s No. 4 prospect in the class of 2018. But there is still progress to be made according to Oregon head coach Dana Altman.
"Bol is a terrific scorer, he was 8-for-12. I just didn't think he posted up very hard," Altman said following Oregon’s 83-72 win over Green Bay last week. "I think they pushed him around… I'm going to have to take a look at the film and see. We played him too many minutes, I don't think he's ready for 33 minutes right now."
Pritchard is the catalyst, a returning starter at point guard who was named to the all-Pac-12 second team last season. This year, he’s averaging 14.6 points, 5.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game, doing a good job of dictating the tempo of games and controlling the offense.
Texas Southern will enter Matthew Knight Arena on a four-game losing streak, giving up over 100 points twice in that span. The Tigers give up 89.2 points per game, tied for third-worst in the country.
Guard Jayln Patterson is Texas Southern’s best offensive player, averaging 15.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.
The Tigers’ Trayvon Reed, a 7-foot-2 center, might be the only opponent Oregon’s Bol will be able to look straight in the eye all season long. Reed is a physical presence in the paint, averaging 12 points, 11 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, shooting 48.1-percent from the field and hitting 2-of-4 from beyond the arc.
The Ducks are now in a stretch where practice is going to be the most important part of their development considering they play just three games in 21 days, coming off a three-games-in-six-days cross-country road trip.
"From now until the 8th [of December] we need to make a lot of progress… we're not a very good basketball team, we have a lot of work to do,” Altman said. “We have to get better in practice.”
In last week’s victory over Green Bay, Oregon held the Phoenix to 38-percent shooting in the first half. But after seizing control in the second half, the Ducks’ defense let up late, allowing Green Bay to shoot 48-percent from the field.
Still, the Ducks have held all five of their opponents under 40-percent shooting for the game, including limiting Portland State and Eastern Washington to under 30-percent from the field.
"I hope we can learn from a win," said Altman. "A lot of times teams can only win from losses, I hope we can learn from a win and do a much better job."