In its first game in 271 days, Oregon was led by a player who waited even longer to return to the court.
Eugene Omoruyi, a redshirt senior who sat out last season after transferring from Rutgers, scored a career-high 31 points and had 11 rebounds for the No. 21 Ducks in an 83-75 season-opening loss to Missouri on Wednesday night at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
“Eugene fought his tail off to keep us in the game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “Without his physicality and him playing like he did, we hoo. He was by far the brightest spot competitive-wise, toughness-wise. He made up for a lot of guys. Unbelievable effort. Thought he played hard and played well.”
It was a performance 631 days in the making for Omoruyi, who averaged 13.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in 2018-19 for the Scarlet Knights and last played in a college basketball game in the Big Ten Tournament on March 13, 2019.
Omoruyi opened his UO tenure with his eighth career double-double, shooting 10 of 19 from the field including 2 of 6 from three-point range and 9 of 11 at the foul line. Seven of his 11 rebounds were on the offensive end.
But it wasn’t enough to win, as Chris Duarte (22 points) and Eric Williams Jr. (13 points, nine rebounds) were the only other Ducks to score in double figures.
Altman said he knew Omoruyi would be a double-figure scorer for the Ducks because of his time at Rutgers and his work ethic.
“He’s been our hardest worker in practice,” Altman said. “He’s done a tremendous job. I thought he would play well tonight and he sure did. He tried taking charges, he tried to do everything for us. A really, really good effort. … That’s as hard-nosed a performance as we’ve had from an inside guy in a long time.”
Xavier Pinson scored 22 points to lead five players in double figures for the Tigers, who led 42-31 at halftime thanks to an edge in turnovers and rebounding. Both teams took better care of the ball in the second half, though, and Oregon dominated the glass 23-12 after the break.
Altman wasn’t pleased with UO’s first half execution on offense, particularly at guard, but put the onus largely on himself for transfer Amauri Hardy (three points, five assists and four turnovers) and freshman Jalen Terry (0 for 4, one assist) struggling at running the point due to Will Richardson being out for six weeks following left thumb surgery for an injury he suffered earlier in the week.
“Some of those turnovers were flat embarrassing,” Altman said. “I can’t put it any other way and I told the guys that. I said, ‘Fellas, we’re tossing the ball around here like we haven’t done anything. I know I’m asking you guys to do a few more different things but we got to be able to make adjustments here because Will’s going to be gone for a while.’”