After just six healthy scholarship players were available in its last game, Oregon could be closer to full strength when the Ducks face visiting Washington State in the Pac-12 opener for both teams Thursday.
Oregon (3-4) beat Villanova 74-67 on Sunday despite missing injured players Brennan Rigsby, N’Faly Dante, Nate Bittle, Jermaine Couisnard, and Keeshawn Barthelemy.
Rigsby, who averaged 11.6 points at Northwest Florida State College last season, is expected to make his Oregon debut against the Cougars.
“It’ll be a plus for the whole team (when Rigsby returns), especially with his off-the-ball shooting,” said Oregon guard Will Richardson, who is averaging a team-high 13.7 points. “He can really shoot the ball.”
Injuries have also plagued Washington State (3-2), which made a school record 19 3-pointers in a 96-54 rout of Detroit Mercy on Friday.
The Cougars are averaging 11.2 made 3-pointers per game and boast a strong backcourt led by TJ Bamba and Jabe Mullins. Bamba is averaging a team-high 16 points on 52.9-percent shooting, including 56.5 percent from 3-point range.
Washington State faces a challenge against the imposing Oregon frontline and will need a strong outing from 6-foot-11 sophomore Mouhamed Gueye, who is averaging 12.2 points and seven rebounds.
Washington State coach Kyle Smith said his team is a work in progress, but he likes the way his offense has performed in back-to-back blowout wins over Eastern Washington and Detroit Mercy.
“We’re getting there,” Smith said. “Rebounding is going to be a challenge, but hopefully the shooting will open up a lot of things. The guys like each other, but they’re still getting comfortable playing with each other. We’ll find more about ourselves Thursday on the road.”
Oregon could be without two of its big men in the conference opener. Dante is listed as day-to-day (concussion protocol), and Bittle could miss his second straight game with a left foot injury.