EUGENE, Ore. (AP) An embarrassing road loss to Baylor may prove to be a valuable lesson for Oregon.
If the fourth-ranked Ducks want to meet their own lofty expectations, they’ll have to earn it on the boards.
Two days after losing by 17 points to the unranked Bears, Chris Boucher had 25 points and nine rebounds to lead Oregon to its 27th consecutive home victory, 76-54 over Valparaiso on Thursday night.
Boucher was coming off a 12-point, two-rebound performance against Baylor.
“His activity allowed him to him to have the 25 points,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “He had no defensive rebounds the other night and we lost the rebounding battle by 11.
“Tonight we won it by 13, and that was the difference in the game.”
Jordan Bell added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Ducks (2-1), who took control early in the second half with an 11-4 run fueled by Bell’s eight points to open a 52-38 lead. Bell scored 12 points in the second half as Oregon shot 15 of 27 from the field.
“That was our goal, just to go inside,” Bell said. “Against Baylor we went 3 for 21 at the 3-point line, so we just wanted to go inside.”
Alec Peters led the Crusaders (3-1) with 24 points to become the school’s second-leading career scorer. Tevonn Walker added 12 points.
Valparaiso shot just 23.3 percent in the second half as Peters was its only starter to make more than half of his attempts. The Crusaders finished 4 of 21 from 3-point range.
“I think it’s pretty evident that we are not shooting the ball very well,” Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich said, “and to beat a team like Oregon you’re going to have to hit shots from the outside.”
Backup freshman point guard Payton Pritchard had nine points and five assists for the Ducks, who led by as many as 25 points in the second half.
Oregon had a 40-27 rebounding edge and blocked six shots.
Altman said his team’s size and rebounding ability should be what sets the Ducks apart.
“If you’re not beating people on the boards, you’re not taking advantage of your athleticism,” he said. “Our goal should be a plus-eight or -nine on those boards for the season, and if we do that, it’ll be really positive for our team.”
The Ducks played again without preseason All-America Dillon Brooks, who continues to recover from offseason foot surgery. Altman was noncommittal about the junior forward’s availability for the Maui Jim Maui Invitational when Oregon opens play Monday against Georgetown.
“I don’t know if he’ll play in Maui,” Altman said, “and if he does, it won’t be very much.”
Valparaiso: Coming off a 30-win season and deep run in the NIT, the Crusaders were held 28 points below their season average while shooting just 32.1 percent from the field against the Ducks.
Oregon: The Ducks likely will slip in Monday’s poll off their 66-49 loss at Baylor, but they may regain Brooks’ services while in Hawaii.
Despite Thursday night’s win, Oregon’s best-ever No. 4 ranking likely will take a hit after its 66-49 road loss to unranked Baylor on Tuesday.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Boucher, who has scored in all 38 games he’s played at Oregon, had 18 points by halftime and missed his career high by one.
Though not known for his ball-handling, the 6-foot-10 Boucher flashed some nifty moves when he picked off a cross-court pass, dodged a Crusader at mid-court, dipped inside another off the dribble and smoothly threw down a one-handed dunk in the first half to cap a 9-0 run.
Valparaiso plays Alabama on Monday in Las Vegas at the four-team MGM Grand Main Event. The Crusaders will face either BYU or Saint Louis on Wednesday before heading home.
Oregon heads to Hawaii to play Georgetown on Monday in the first round of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. The Ducks will face either No. 9 Wisconsin or Tennessee on Tuesday.