Kenny Wooten provides needed ‘spark’ in narrow win over Texas Southern
Texas Southern’s Trayvon Reed found his way under the basket. He receives the ball and, with hopes of making his first basket of the game, he jumps up and shoots.
Instead of finding the basket, the ball immediately gets blocked by Oregon freshman Kenny Wooten.
The crowd erupts and the Oregon Pit Crew begins to chant, “You got swatted! You got swatted!”
After playing in 10 straight games and a career-high 25 minutes on the court on Monday, Wooten said the pace of the college game is beginning to slow down for him. It showed on Monday as he was named the player of the game with a team-high four blocks and shot 6-of-7 from the field for 13 points, the second highest to Payton Pritchard’s 16.
“That’s the Kenny Wooten we need every night,” Pritchard said. “He was killing it tonight. He is really the reason why we won this game. He gave us the spark, he gave us easy buckets. He’s blocking shots and protecting the rim, and we really need that this year.”
With a tie game at 2:27 remaining in the first half, Wooten’s “spark” ignited. The 6-foot-9 forward blocked a TSU jump-shot. Ten seconds later, he hustled to the opposite end of the court, secured a layup and got Oregon the lead that would last the rest of the game.
“I thought Kenny saved us,” head coach Dana Altman said. “He got some baskets from the inside and he got some key blocks. I thought he was the difference in the game.”
One those key baskets came off an assist from Pritchard as he found himself heavily guarded in the paint. A quick pass to Wooten cleared the key as he dunked the ball, giving the Ducks a seven-point lead at the 9:10-minute mark of the second half.
“Kenny is going to be alright,” sophomore Payton Pritchard said. “The game is coming at him fast at first but it’s definitely slowing down. His talent is there, he just has to be ready to play every night like that.”
Wooten didn’t seem as impressed, as he gave the credit of his high-performance night to his teammates and wants to further improve his defense.
“They fed me and I was just trying to be open and they found me,” Wooten said. “I give all the credit to them. … I’ve got to work on being active defensively and talking more. I’ve got to focus more on getting back in transition, but overall I think I played okay.”
Wooten is often compared to Jordan Bell since the two share the same number and a talent for blocking shots. But Wooten isn’t worried about comparisons right now.
“Bell was a special player, I don’t try to compare myself to him,” Wooten said.
Neither is Pritchard.
“Kenny is going to be his own player,” Pritchard said. “Kenny is going to be Kenny Wooten and set his own legacy here as a Duck.”
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni
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