There was a lot to like for Dana Altman and his staff as the Oregon men’s basketball (4-2) took down visiting Portland State (4-1) 81-59, a team who recently beat USC on the road.
Coming off back-to-back losses to Michigan and VCU in the Progressive Legends Classic, the Ducks hit their first roadblock of the season. That was quickly put behind them with tonight’s performance.
Led by freshman Jordan Bell, who boasted a career-high six blocks, the Ducks not only set a new school/arena record for rejections with 12 (set roughly 30 years ago against Davidson), but they also strung together one of their most complete games of the season thus far.
“Jordan did a nice job there of getting a few (blocks),” Altman said. “Jordan’s got the ability to get off his feet quick. When his knees are bent, he’s a pretty good athlete.”
Altman wasn’t kidding when he said the Ducks had a tough non-conference schedule road ahead of them. The Ducks have just simply done their part to be competitive in every one of those games.
“The first half, I was really pleased with,” Altman said. “The second half performance took away from that a little bit. It was a step in the right direction especially bouncing back from two losses, but we’ve got to have a great week here.”
Jalil Abdul-Bassit’s coming out party
The first half was all about Jalil Abdul-Bassit, who finished with a game-high 19 points. Hitting his first five shots, four of them coming from beyond the arc, the senior guard was undoubtedly the leading performer of the half. His first miss didn’t come until the 8:43 mark. He even banked one in during his hot streak.
“He’s been a little up and down, he’s missed a lot of practices,” Altman said about Abdul-Bassit. “His shot selection was really good (today). I thought he played really well until his last shot.”
Abdul-Bassit may not see heavy minutes in Altman’s current tight seven-man rotation, but tonight, he could do no wrong. His performance led to a 42.3 percent three-point shooting performance for the Ducks.
“Jalil played fantastic tonight,” Benson said. “To have him come in and shoot the ball like he did and make big plays like he did, was tremendous, uplifting off the bench.”
A glimpse into the future
Bell nearly recorded a triple-double tonight, finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. The freshman forward, who Altman has been praising since his arrival, was firing on all cylinders.
“We don’t expect him to do it,” Altman said in regards to Bell’s production tonight. “He’s really working on his offensive game. He’s been staying after practice trying to get some go-to moves down there (paint area).”
Aside from his four personal fouls, an area he continues to work on, Bell continues to make noticeable strides. Altman was especially impressed with his production on the boards.
“The rebounding part was really good,” Altman said. “He didn’t rebound well against VCU and to see him active again on the boards, I thought he did a great job.”
Also making contributions were Dillon Brooks and Casey Benson, who started in place of an injured Dwayne Benjamin. Brooks boasted Oregon’s second double-double with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting and a game-high 14 rebounds, while Benson added 13 points.
“It felt really good,” Benson said about starting. “I just wanted to make little plays take care of the basketball and knock down some open shots.”
Joseph Young, who has been struggling as of late, finished with a team-high 19 points on 6-of-17 shooting and a game-high seven assists.
Early on, the two underclassmen have taken the initiative and it’s paid off under Altman’s team-oriented system.
A work in progress
Like every coach, Altman is far from being content with his team defense, but that doesn’t mean the Ducks didn’t take another step in the right direction tonight. Containing an undefeated Vikings team, who had entered the game shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc to 25.8 percent from the field, the Ducks were sound defensively.
Aside from a sloppy stretch to open the second half, the Ducks accomplished their goal of limiting the Vikings on the perimeter. Portland State finished 4-for-20 from the outside.
On the horizon
As the Ducks head into the second half of their non-conference schedule, they’ll have upheld their standard of making improvements every game.
While the Ducks wish they could have had those two games against the Wolverines and Rams back, they’ve successfully moved forward.
“We’ve got a tremendous amount of work to do,” Altman said. “If we’re going to make the progress that we need to make to have a competitive team, we got to get a lot better.”
Next on the schedule is Concordia OR, a team that is coming off of a 87-59 loss to Portland.
According to Altman, Benjamin is now walking without a boot. A date has yet to be set for his return.
Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim