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No. 1-seed Oregon will be without two starters when it begins NIT play vs. UC Irvine
By Chris Hansen, Register-Guard,
Oregon Ducks men's basketball
Oregon (19-14) vs. UC Irvine (23-11)
8 p.m., Wednesday at Matthew Knight Arena
Radio: KUJZ-FM (95.3)
About the Ducks
Oregon battled injuries to key players throughout the regular season and the postseason will be no different. Coach Dana Altman announced Tuesday afternoon that starting guards Will Richardson and Jermaine Couisnard — and possibly N'Faly Dante — will miss the No. 1-seeded Ducks' NIT opener Wednesday against UC Riverside. Richardson is out for the remainder of the season with a hip injury, putting an end to his Ducks' career. Couisnard is out with a shoulder injury and could be available if Oregon advance to the second round.
Richardson, who is the program record-holder for games played, is missing the postseason for the second year in a row. Last season he was sidelined by mononucleosis during the Pac-12 Tournament and the Ducks’ two NIT games. He started all 33 games this season and was averaging 12.2 points with a team-high 49 3-pointers, 5.1 assists and 49 steals. Altman said Richardson has been dealing with the hip injury for a while but went for an MRI this week which triggered his season getting shut down. "It’s been a rough year physically for him but he’s continued to meet the challenge," Altman said.
Couisnard, who missed the first 14 games while recovering from preseason knee surgery, is second on the team in scoring at 12.8 points per game. He suffered a partial separation of his shoulder during the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal loss to UCLA last Friday. “I knew something was wrong," Altman said. "He kept rubbing that shoulder and asked to come out and that’s the first time he’s asked to come out all year.”
Altman also said he was "hopeful" the Ducks will have their all-Pac-12 center available for Wednesday's game. Dante injured his right ankle against Washington State in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals. He played against the Bruins but was limited. “It’s that time of year," Altman said. "A lot of teams are banged up and so it’s a great opportunity for some of our other guys to really get out there and battle and really see what they can do.”
The Ducks are hosting the Anteaters for the second time this season. They lost to UC Irvine 69-56 on Nov. 11 in the second game of the season on what was a terrible shooting night for Oregon. The Ducks made 32.7% of their attempts from the field (17-for-52) and 19.0% from 3-point range (4-for-21). The Anteaters led 35-22 at halftime after Oregon made just seven field goals in the first half and missed on all of their seven 3-point attempts.
Oregon did have success inside in the previous game against UC Irvine, as Dante had 20 points and nine rebounds and center Nate Bittle had 10 points and six rebounds.
The Ducks’ 3-point shooting has been a hot topic since they made just nine of their 40 attempts in two Pac-12 Tournament games last week. It was a regression to their success rate from 3-point range during the first 16 games of the season when they made just 28.7% of their attempts. That percentage improved significantly when Couisnard and Keeshawn Barthelemy returned to the lineup after missing time with injuries. In the 15 games prior to the Pac-12 Tournament, the Ducks shot 36% from deep and were making nearly two more 3-pointers a game than the first half of the season.
Don’t look now, but freshman center Kel’el Ware is starting to hit a groove. In his last four games, Ware is averaging 8.0 points and 4.75 rebounds in 13.5 minutes. He also had a pair of blocks in both Pac-12 Tournament games.
About the Anteaters
UC Irvine was the regular season co-champions of the Big West Conference along with UC Santa Barbara
DJ Davis, who had 24 points against the Ducks in November, remains a top scoring threat for UCI. The 6-foot-1 junior guard averages 15.2 points per game, has made 85 3-pointers and shoots 40% from deep. Dawson Baker, a 6-4 junior guard, averages 15.3 points, has also made 47 3-pointers and shoots 38.5% from deep.
The Anteaters rank 17th in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage at 38.4% and are allowing opponents to shoot 31.8% from 3-point range.