Oregon suffered one of the worst losses of the Dana Altman era, instantly throwing the No. 21 Ducks into flux early for a second straight season.
N’Faly Dante had 20 points and nine rebounds for Oregon in a 69-56 loss to UC Irvine Friday night at Matthew Knight Arena.
It was the largest margin of defeat in a home nonconference game for UO since Dec. 18, 2011 against Virginia. However, while UC Irvine is a perennial top 150 team and NCAA Tournament contender out of the Big West, the nearly wire-to-wire nature of the Anteaters’ win and a putrid shooting performance by the Ducks made it much worse.
“We got beat in every facet of the game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “Hustle, toughness. We’ve had a number of practices that resembled that. I was fearful at some point in time that would come but they were the aggressor right from the start; we were standing straight up and down. Points off turnovers, second-chance points the first half just absolutely killed us. …
“A poor mental effort. We didn’t compete. I wish I had something positive to say, but really disappointed. The guys are disappointed. I’m disappointed. Got punched right from the start.”
Even if UC Irvine hangs on to be a Quadrant 3 game on Oregon’s resume come Selection Sunday, it’s UO’s worst home loss on paper in terms of caliber of opponent since the Nov. 26, 2018 loss to Texas Southern.
DJ Davis had 24 points on 8 of 17 shooting from the field, including 6 of 14 from three, and 2 of 2 at the free throw line for UC Irvine, which notched its first regular season win over a top 25 team since 2001.
Davis helped the Anteaters build an early lead, then Dante scored the first five points in a 10-1 run to give Oregon an 18-17 lead with 6:11 to go in the first half. It was the only time Oregon led as UC Irvine closed the half on an 18-4 run to take a 35-22 lead at the break and never looked back.
The Anteaters led by at least 20 points for nearly the entire second half while the Ducks were rudderless. Oregon was 1 for its first 18 from behind the arc until three straight threes to close it out avoided an all-time miserable showing from long range.
Nate Bittle had 10 points and six rebounds as the only other player in double-figures for Oregon, which got just four points, four rebounds and four assists from Will Richardson (1 for 6 from the field) and none from Quincy Guerrier (0 for 5 field goals).
“I’m sure Will (is) really disappointed in his performance,” Altman said. “I’m sure Quincy is. It was a team thing, but I’m expecting more from those guys with their experience. Dante did some good things battling but his turnovers and missed free throws kind of took away from his performance. … The eight guys that played a lot, Dante’s effort was pretty good but they just took it to us.”
Oregon had 15 turnovers lead to 25 points for UC Irvine, which got its third win in the all-time series and first since Nov. 29, 1982, snapping a six-game losing streak to UO.
“Credit the guys in our locker room, they believed they could come in and compete and it is hard to generate that all the time, but we have a winning tradition,” UC Irvine coach Russell Turner said. “They had some guys out and it is not easy to play us early in the year, I know that. Give them credit for taking this game, it was a big deal for us to get an opportunity to come in here and play. This was a hell of an opportunity for us to play a team of their quality. We don’t take this for granted.”