They didn't have suspended starters Dominic Artis or Ben Carter. They had no answer for mammoth Georgetown center Josh Smith. They endured a rare off night from leading returning scorer Damyean Dotson.
Those all sound like ingredients for a season-opening Oregon loss, which makes it all the more impressive that the 19th-ranked Ducks found a way to win anyway.
Houston transfer Joseph Young and Detroit transfer Jason Calliste combined for 40 points as Oregon held off Big East power Georgetown 82-75 in the season opener for both teams at a U.S. Army base in Seoul, Korea. The Ducks sank 36 of 44 free throws, many of them down the stretch with the Hoyas still in striking distance.
The quality neutral-court victory sends a message that Oregon won't be derailed by the nine-game suspensions to its starting point guard and one of its top big men. Artis and Carter violated NCAA rules by selling Nike shoes given to them by the university, a decision that will result in them also missing key December non-conference games against Illinois and Ole Miss.
Artis is one of the Pac-12's top young point guards, but Friday's game reinforced the idea that it's actually Carter who the Ducks will have a tougher time replacing.
Johnathan Loyd lacks the scoring punch of Artis but the senior showed he can run a team just like he did late last season, dishing out seven assists against Georgetown and not committing a turnover. Calliste, a combo guard, spelled Loyd for stretches when he got into foul trouble.
The absence of Carter proved more troubling, especially since center Waverly Austin fouled out with no points in nine minutes. That left Oregon with no true interior scorer and nobody tall and strong enough to realistically keep the 6-foot-10, 350-pound Smith from getting the kind of position he likes in the paint.
Smith overpowered the Oregon frontcourt for an efficient 25 points in 27 minutes, but the trio of Dotson, Mike Moser and Richard Amardi used its quickness advantage on the other end and did a good job on the glass. Moser, in particular, looked as effective as he did at UNLV two years ago, chipping in 15 points and seven rebounds.
With a series of small-conference teams ahead on the schedule, Oregon should have the chance to keep piling up wins while still figuring out how best to survive without Artis and Carter.
Then, when those two get back, watch out. The Ducks will have the firepower necessary to challenge Arizona in the Pac-12.
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