Oregon has no depth due to injuries. UConn has no such major challenges.
The Ducks, who have eight available scholarship players, made matters worse for themselves by turning it over 17 times and it led to 18 points for the Huskies.
“We knew their backcourt was limited,” UConn guard Jordan Hawkins said. “They didn’t have a lot of ball-handlers out there except for (Will) Richardson. We wanted to exploit that and put pressure on them all game.”
Tristen Newton scored a season-high 23 points thanks to shooting 5 of 6 from behind the arc to lead a 45.9% (17 of 37) effort from three for No. 20 UConn in a 83-59 demolition of short-handed Oregon in the opening round of the PKI Thursday night at Moda Center.
“We didn’t respond very well,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “Bigs really just didn’t get out and cover a number of times. Our perimeter defense wasn’t good and they hit shots. Newton came into the game 4 for 17 and went 5 for 6 in the first half. We let him get a couple of easy ones early and he got on a roll. We didn’t help ourselves out with our turnovers, missed some free throws that first half, which could have kept us a little closer. But obviously just didn’t guard.”
Kel’el Ware had 18 points and nine rebounds and N’Faly Dante scored 15 points for the Ducks (2-3), who were without Keeshawn Barthelemy due to the left foot injury he suffered against Houston on Sunday. Barthelemy’s absence is in addition to projected starters Jermaine Cousinard (knee surgery) and Brennan Rigsby (foot) and reserve Ethan Butler.
Newton, a transfer from East Carolina who had a triple-double against Buffalo earlier this month, scored 21 of his points in the first half and shot 7 of 10 from the field, including 5 of 6 from three, and 4 of 5 at the free throw line. He added six assists and four rebounds.
“This is what I came in for,” Newton said. “Big game, big moments.”
Hawkins, who entered the night averaging 10.3 points, scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, Adama Sanogo had 12 points and six rebounds and Joey Calcaterra had 11 points and four assists for UConn (6-0), which advances to face the winner of Michigan State and Alabama at 6:30 pm Friday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The Huskies used a lot of full-court pressure to build a 39-28 halftime lead. They quickly got it up to 18 points minutes into the second half thanks to Oregon turnovers and blew the game open with a 10-1 run midway through the second half.
“Our passing and catching isn’t what it should be,” Altman said. “We had five turnovers to start the second half which didn’t even enable us to get back in the game. They were bad turnovers, just passing and catching.”
Will Richardson had nine points and Quincy Guerrier had just five points in 15 minutes and fouled out with 12:11 to go for Oregon, which faces the loss of Alabama and Michigan State at 9 pm Friday also at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Moving from the 4 to the 3 has been difficult for Guerrier, who averaged 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 42% from the field last season but is down to 7 points and 3.6 rebounds on 24.2% shooting in five games this season.
“We need him to free up and get going,” Altman said. “He’s a little more comfortable with a bigger guy on him. Playing the 3 has been an adjustment for him, a little bit more ball-handling, a little bit more responsibilities defensively. But we do need him to get going. We know he can play. He’s struggling.”
The weekend doesn’t get any easier for Oregon, which will be without its three injured guards into at least next week. Altman said Barthelemy is out 4-6 weeks and Rigsby could come back for next week’s game against Washington State.
“Our guys are down,” Altman said. “We came into the season with big expectations and Brennan gets hurt, Keeshawn’s hurt now, Jermaine’s hurt, guys we were depending on and we haven’t adjusted well. We haven’t adjusted well as a coaching staff. We haven’t adjusted well playing.
“Our ball handling is real suspect now. People know that; they got after Will and made it really difficult on Will tonight. We’re basically out there with four forwards or three forwards and a center. We’re going to have to continue to adjust and hope like heck we get some guys healthy here pretty quick.”