Ducks change up lineup in win over Delaware State
EUGENE — With his team struggling to take off quickly through its first 10 games, Oregon coach Dana Altman opted for a different starting crew and signaled that change may be his new normal.
Joseph Young led a new-look lineup with 23 points and Elgin Cook added a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Ducks to an 83-70 victory over Delaware State on Saturday.
Jalil Abdul-Bassitt, one of three new starters for Oregon (8-3), added 12 points and Ahmaad Rorie had 10.
“We don’t have anything etched in stone,” Altman said. “We may change every game.
“We don’t have anyone who has separated themselves in practice, and we don’t have anyone who has really separated themselves in games, so we may change it every game.”
Amere May led the Hornets (5-6) with 16 points and Tyshawn Bell had 15.
Altman went with usual starters Young and Cook along with Abdul-Bassitt and freshmen Jordan Bell and Casey Benson.
The shake-up paid off as the Ducks broke to a 16-3 lead and pushed the margin as high as 19 points in the first half.
The revamped starting lineup finished the half with 34 of Oregon’s 38 points. Young led the way with 14 that included four 3-pointers, but Altman’s focus landed elsewhere.
“Our bench had a hard time finishing a play,” he said. “We were 0-for-13 off the bench in the first half, so we didn’t keep the offensive flow going.”
Meanwhile, the Ducks were making life miserable for May, the Hornet senior who was coming off an NCAA Division I season-best 48 points in Wednesday’s win over St. Francis Brooklyn. He struggled to a 1-for-5 start, missed his only free throw and had just two points by halftime.
“He’s a guy who can explode at any minute,” Hornet coach Keith Walker said, “but he has to understand that a game like he had the last one isn’t going to happen every day.”
Delaware State bounced back from one 4 1/2-minute scoring drought and a 32-13 deficit with 5:40 left in the half with a 14-6 finish to slice the margin to 38-27 at the break. It was the closest the Hornets had been since Walker called timeout to slow Oregon’s 13-3 start.
The Ducks went with the same starting five to start the second half and cranked their lead to a high of 20 points twice.
Despite playing without starting center Kendall Gray, the Hornets’ second-leading scorer who Walker said didn’t make the trip because of illness, Delaware State made a late run at the Ducks to pull within 10 points with 7:48 left.
However, that was as close as the Hornets would get. After Young’s fifth 3-pointer, Jordan Bell dashed Delaware State’s comeback hopes with a soaring, one-handed rebound dunk and then threw down a two-hander to put the Ducks back in control at 72-57.
“I liked his activity,” Altman said. “He just has to get more in tune offensively, but he did a lot of good things.”
Delaware State: The Hornets are now 0-12 all-time against Pac-12 Conference opponents. . Delaware State was the second Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team to travel three time zones to play the Ducks. Oregon opened its season with a 107-65 win over Coppin State.
Oregon: Jordan Bell’s four blocked shots gave him 36 for the season and moved him within two of the school’s all-time top five in that category. . The Ducks, who are in the midst of a seven-game home stand, close out the month against UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine before starting conference play with a Civil War matchup with Oregon State on Jan. 3.
TOUGH TO THE FINISH
Walker liked what he saw from his Hornets rallying in the second half in Kendall Gray’s absence. Gray, a 6-foot-10 senior, is averaging 11.5 points and 10.4 rebounds through 11 games while shooting 57.0 percent from the field. “They could have tanked it in a whole lot earlier knowing their starting center wasn’t there,” he said, “but they fought to the end and I’m very appreciative of that.”
A WORK IN PROGRESS
Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, the Pac-12’s top freshman scorer and a starter until Saturday, had his run of 10 double-digit games snapped with seven points in 25 minutes off the bench. Brooks was the only Duck to score in double figures in the team’s first 10 games, but he didn’t appear to play with his usual energy as a reserve. “His body language hasn’t been good all year,” Altman said. “He’s got to change that, and that’s one thing we’ve talked to him about. He’s a really good player and he’s got really good instincts, but he’s got to be more of a leader for our team. He’s got to set a better tone.”
Delaware State plays at Temple on Dec. 28.
Oregon hosts UC Santa Barbara on Monday night.