How Oregon won: A win is a win no matter how ugly. The Oregon Ducks got it done tonight. But it didn't come easy and at times, fearful. Oregon had the lead up by 18 points early in the second half. Slowly but surely, the UCLA Bruins began to chip away. Could this happen once again? Would it be the third game in a row where the Ducks have a lead coming down the stretch and gave it away? It was beginning to feel like deja vu for the staff, players, and 12,364 fans at Matthew Knight Arena. With just under five minutes remaining, UCLA went on a 10-0 run to bring the score to 88-87, Oregon lead, 1:09 to go. UCLA calls a timeout with :12 seconds to go, Oregon coach Dana Altman gathers his team and decides to foul the Bruins so they would have to earn their points and the Ducks can regain control of the tempo Risky that it may be, but a risk that paid off. The Ducks (13-7, 3-4 Pac-12) rode their three point lead off perfect 4-of-4 free throw shooting from sophomore guard Payton Pritchard to a 94-91 win over UCLA (13-7, 4-4 Pac-12) in Matthew Knight Arena.
"They [UCLA] were shooting it so well from three," said Altman. "They had so many guys out there that can hit three's. It wasn't like we could shift our defense to one guy. You go right down their roster, the guys they had in there were all shooters. So I just felt like it was our best chance hoping we could get the ball to Payton or Elijah [Brown] who are extremely good free throw shooters and just felt this was the best way for us to finish it out."
What it means: Oregon started this game probably the best so far this season and entered halftime up 52-38. Three Oregon players scored in double figures in just the first half: Pritchard with 10 points, senior Miklye McIntosh with 12 points, and freshman Victor Bailey Jr., coming off the bench and creating some energy, shot 5-of-6 from the field scoring 15 points. If the Ducks can figure out how to start every game like that, with high intensive defensive pressure and swift offensive ball movement, and somehow carry that momentum over into the second half, maybe just maybe they can develop a comfortable lead and keep it to the end.
McIntosh said, "We understood the last four minutes of the last few games were not our best. But we understood that if we trust in our abilities and trust our coaches and understand that we can go out there and just play and not really worry about things, then we'll get the job done. As ugly as it may be, a win is a win. As long as we go out there and play hard and try not to make too many mistakes, then we'll be fine."
Two battles were additionally won tonight: the Ducks scored 18 second chance points, which shows hustle and offensively crashing boards. And 19 assists with only eight turnovers, demonstrating the improving ball movement and making plays for one another.
High flying Ducks: Pritchard lead all scored with 25 points off 5-for-8 from three-point range. McIntosh and Bailey Jr. finished with 18 points. Freshman Troy Brown Jr., who seemed to find his groove again, finished with 17 points, five assists, and crucial rebounds down the stretch.
Foul play: Oregon committed 25 team fouls collectively. Junior Paul White fouled out.
Up next: The Ducks host Oregon State in the second chapter of the Civil War at 5 PM (PT) this Saturday, January 27th, at Matthew Knight Arena.