Without either of its veteran centers, Oregon managed to win the rebounding battle and notch its first road win of the season.
Jesse Zarzuela scored 14 points and Jadrian Tracey added 13 and six rebounds for the Ducks in a 67-54 win at Florida A&M Monday night at the Al Lawson Center in Tallahassee, Florida.
Oregon had just eight scholarship players available, with centers N’Faly Dante (knee) and Nate Bittle (left wrist) not making the trip due and freshmen Jackson Shelstad (knee) and Mookie Cook (ankle) yet to play.
“Without Dante and Nate, a little confidence goes,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said in a postgame radio interview. “We were really confident with Dante because we knew we could throw it to him anytime and Nate had started to earn that; guys felt really confident throwing it to Nate. So we lost a little bit of that confidence there of getting it into them and playing from there.
“I liked the way the guys responded. We were able to finish the game. We knew it would be tough without those guys, especially when we weren’t shooting it well.”
Jermaine Couisnard scored all 11 of his points in the first half, going 2 of 6 from the field with a three-point and 6 of 10 from the free throw line for Oregon (4-0), which took a 28-27 lead into the break despite a 21-16 deficit on the board.
“Our guys were playing hard, we just made a lot of bad decisions offensively the first half,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said in a postgame radio interview. “Got to the rim, didn’t finish anything. Our free throws hurt us again tonight.
“I got no complaints with how hard we played. We were down at half on the boards, came back and ended up a positive. They scored 27 each half; I thought our defense was good. We just didn’t make many shots. Got to the rim, missed a lot of layups in the first half. I don’t know if we were a little tight.
The Ducks went a 9-0 run in the second half thanks to two three-pointers from Kario Oquendo and one from Brennan Rigsby. UO shot 5 of 12 from behind the arc in the second half and won the rebounding battle 18-12 in the frame.
Zarzuela was 3 of 8 from the field, including 1 of 4 from three, and made all 7 of his free throws while playing a team-high 36 minutes. He also limited FAMU’s Love Bettis to two points on 1 of 5 shooting with two turnovers.
“I thought Jesse really played well,” Altman said. “He had the assignment of Bettis; he had 24 against Florida the other night and I thought he had a great job on him. (K’Jei Parker) got a little comfortable coming off some of the ball screens. … We didn’t get as aggressive in the ball screens as we should have but I thought Jesse in particular did a really good job on both those guys.
Keith Lamar (seven rebounds) and Parker (three assists) each had 18 points for Florida A&M (0-4), which finished last season No. 359 in NET out of 363 Division I teams.
But given the circumstances, a win was all that mattered to Oregon, which plays Santa Clara at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Emerald Coast Classic and either Alabama or Ohio State on Saturday.
It’s not clear if the Ducks will have any of their injured players back for those games. Dante was set to see a specialist in Chicago earlier Monday and Bittle did not travel with the team.
“Our depth isn’t what it was,” Altman said. “Hopefully Jackson, Mookie, we can get them back here shortly and give us something. Try to get a little bit more depth.”
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