Photo by Allan Johnstone
Oregon Basketball

Preview: Boise State

December 15, 2018

I’m not a gambling man, but I would feel comfortable betting that this game has been circled in the calendars of all the returning Oregon players since last year.

If you've forgotten, that was the game where Boise State's Lexus Williams made a half-court shot in the final seconds that not only got the Broncos the win but also broke Oregon’s 46-home game win streak and ushered in an unremarkable season for the Ducks. And it was the second time the Broncos had beaten the Ducks in three years.

Today's 6 p.m. game in Eugene marks the first of two times that the Ducks and Broncos will play each other in December, with each getting one game at home in what was a last-minute addition to the 2018-19 schedule.

When asked about Boise State, Oregon coach Dana Altman said, “They’ve always played us tough. … It’s been a great series for us even though they’ve popped us.

“It makes us better.” 

Neither team has had the best start to this season, picking up some unexpected losses. Boise State fell to Grand Canyon and Drake, and Oregon lost to Texas Southern and Iowa.

One of the most notable things about this Boise team is bench depth. They have seven players logging at least 21 minutes, with five of those averaging 9 or more points. That’s a big contrast from the Ducks' last opponent, San Diego, which played only six or seven guys. 

The Broncos are averaging 71.5 points a game while allowing their opponents to score 69.1. Junior wing RJ Williams leads the way at 15.9 points a game, with junior guard Justinian Jessup not too far behind at 13.1. However, I think that the most crucial player for Boise State in this match-up will be forward Zach Haney. 

Haney, the Broncos’ big man at 6-11 and 235 pounds, will have the unenviable job of guarding Bol Bol. To make a tough job even tougher, Bol -- who is averaging 21 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a game -- has really improved his play in the Ducks' last three games while showing signs that his best basketball is yet to come.

The Broncos’ record is 4-5, and they haven’t played a lot of great basketball, but one bright spot has been their defense. In a recent win over Alabama State, the Hornets shot only 37.3 percent from the field -- which really helped, because the Broncos shot only slightly better at 44.9 percent. 

Against San Diego, the Ducks played the best basketball I’ve seen all season. The offense was flowing smoothly and the defense was aggressive without making stupid mistakes.

While I don’t think Ehab Amin will play like that every game, I do think that the type of performance we saw from him against San Diego can be repeated. I think a lot of the positive change has to do with having Will Richardson and Abu Kigab start, getting freshman Louis King up to speed after his injury and finding Paul White's role in fewer minutes coming off the bench.

It also doesn’t hurt that Bol is starting to play show the game that will make him a one-and-done NBA draft pick.

When all is said and done, I think that the Ducks will win by 10 to 15 points. This Boise team is not the same one we saw last season in Matthew Knight Arena, and the Ducks are finally starting to play like the team they were projected to be.

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