EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon made a big addition to its lineup Wednesday night as 6-foot-11 N’Faly Dante played his first college game and contributed 11 points to help the eighth-ranked Ducks roll to an 81-48 win over Montana.
The much-anticipated debut of Oregon’s top freshman recruit probably wasn’t needed against the Grizzlies (4-6), but the Ducks want Dante comfortable with his role before Pac-12 play begins in two weeks. Oregon (9-2) has two more nonconference games.
Francis Okoro, a 6-9 sophomore who had been Oregon’s tallest player, posted the second double-double of his career with 12 points and 17 rebounds, the latter a career high while he matched his career best for scoring. Payton Pritchard and Will Richardson led the Ducks with 14 points each, and Pritchard added seven assists.
Dante would have been a high school senior this year but the native of Mali reclassified over the summer to go to college. He wasn’t cleared for eligibility in time to enroll for the fall term but when that ended last Friday, he officially became a student for winter term, though classes don’t begin until Jan. 6.
Dante didn’t play Saturday in Oregon’s road win at No. 5 Michigan because he hadn’t practiced with the Ducks, but after a couple of days of workouts he was in uniform Wednesday.
He immediately made an impact.
The Ducks scored 11 consecutive points to break away from the last tie at 12-all. That spurt included the first two Oregon points for Dante, who entered the game with 7:50 left in the first half and promptly scored seven points in three minutes.
Dante converted a pair of lob passes for dunks, the second one when he was fouled and hit the free throw for a three-point play. He finished the first half with nine points, equaling Okoro’s total as the Ducks dominated inside. The two big men combined to go 8 of 9 from the field as the Ducks shot 52% to lead 37-24 at halftime.
Oregon expanded the lead in the second half and ended up shooting 54% from the floor.
Montana could never find its groove on offense, shooting 37% while committing 20 turnovers.
Montana: The loss left the Grizzlies 0-3 against Pac-12 teams, 0-5 in road games and 1-22 all-time against teams ranked in The AP top 10.
Oregon: The Ducks have won their five home games, each by at least 12 points.
Montana plays at Omaha on Saturday, the final game for the Grizzlies before opening their Big Sky schedule Dec. 28 at home against Northern Arizona.
Oregon hosts Texas Southern on Saturday. A year ago, Texas Southern upset the Ducks.