No. 10 Oregon knocks off No. 5 Michigan in a thriller in Ann Arbor
Payton Pritchard scored 15 of the final 17 points for Oregon and Michigan missed two shots at the rim on the final possession of the game as the No. 10 Ducks held on to beat the No. 5 Wolverines in overtime, 71-70.
Pritchard shook off a slow start to the game before taking over down the stretch. He finished with 23 points, four assists and three steals on 11-for-19 shooting despite being defended by Zavier Simpson, one of the best in the country. One of the few times that Simpson was actually able to get a stop came on the final possession of regulation, when he knocked the ball loose before it ended up with Anthony Mathis. Mathis, who had 19 points and hit six threes on the night, buried a 30-footer, but after a review the officials determined the shot game just after the buzzer.
Franz Wagner led the way for Michigan with 21 points while Isaiah Livers scored all 13 of his points in the second half. Michigan was down by as many as 16 points in the first half and trailed 31-23 at the break.
Here are three things that we can take away from this game:
1. YOU CANNOT HAVE A PLAYER OF THE YEAR CONVERSATION WITHOUT PAYTON PRITCHARD
Pritchard did not put up monster numbers on Saturday. He finished with 23 points, four assists, three boards and three steals, which is really good but not the kind of performance that typically makes you get up out of your seat and start screaming “THAT IS YOUR NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR!”
But let’s put this into context.
Michigan’s Zavier Simpson is one of the best on-ball defenders in college basketball. There may not be anyone in the sport that is better at disrupting an offense at the point of attack that he is. And Pritchard just torched him over the final five minutes of regulation and in overtime.
Oregon’s offense down the stretch was, essentially, giving the ball to their star and getting out of the way, and it worked. Pritchard scored the final nine points in regulation for the Ducks, and if Anthony Mathis is able to get a buzzer-beating three off just a split-second earlier, than it would have been enough to give the Ducks a win. In the extra frame - playing in front of a raucous home environment as a short-handed team that just blew a 16 point lead - the Ducks probably weren’t considered the favorite.
But Pritchard scored six of Oregon’s eight points, and that was enough to get the win.
Entering Saturday, Pritchard was averaging 18.8 points, 6.1 assists and 4.2 boards for a team that now has wins over Memphis, Seton Hall, Houston and at Michigan. This is not the first time that he’s made big plays late to win a game (Memphis) or to get his team to overtime (Gonzaga). He’s going to be the guy that carries this Oregon team as far as they go, and given what he’s proven that he can do, I think that’ll be pretty far.
I’m not sure who the Player of the Year favorite would be as of today, but I know for a fact that there is no way to talk about who it should be without including Pritchard in that conversation.
2. FRANZ WAGNER AND BRANDON JOHNS SHOW UP FOR MICHIGAN
On a night where Zavier Simpson struggled, Jon Teske forgot to show up and Isaiah Livers was non-existent outside of a six-minute heater at the start of the second half, the Wolverines got massive production from a couple of guys that haven’t shown the ability to do it just yet.
Wagner was Michigan’s leading scorer on Saturday. He finished with 21 points, he hit four threes and he made a number of plays down the stretch that kept Michigan from getting run. This was the guy that the Wolverines thought they were getting when Wagner committed. He was terrific.
Johns’ numbers are not as impressive, but his impact was just as important. He finished with eight points, nine boards, two assists and two blocks - solid production from a five coming off the bench - but it was the fact that he allowed Michigan to play small without losing any of their defensive mettle. Johns is a former top 50 recruit, a burly, 6-foot-8 forward with tantalizing athleticism, but he has struggled finding the confidence to allow him to tap into that potential.
We’ve seen it in flashes. This was more than that.
If Wagner and Johns continue to play like this, then maybe Michigan won’t be so worried about No. 3 ...
3. MICHIGAN WILL LIVE BY THE THREE AND DIE BY THE THREE ALL SEASON LONG
Heading into Saturday afternoon’s showdown with the Ducks, the Wolverines were shooting 42.3 percent from three in their eight wins and 6-for-37 from three in their two losses.
In the first half against Oregon, Michigan shot 2-for-12 from three, trailed by as many as 16 points and entered the second half with a 31-23 deficit at home. In the second half, the Wolverines were 7-for-9 from beyond the arc, came roaring back and, if they had been able to stop Pritchard in the final five minutes of regulation, would have won this game.
That’s more or less how this team is built.
Since so much of their offense is based on the ability of Zavier Simpson to make something happen out of ball-screens, when the guys on the perimeter are forcing defenses to pay attention to them - and punishing them when they don’t - the Wolverines are going to be that much better.
Rocket science, this is not.