LAS VEGAS - In their third night game in as many days, the Ducks began fresher than ever. Oregon came out with energy and a zip that many of us only feel after a double shot of espresso.
Oregon (22-12, 10-8 Pac-12) had complete control of the first 20 minutes but, similar to a caffeine overdose, crashed in the second half, only to re-emerge to force overtime and upset second-seeded Arizona State.
"Our whole season was on the line,” Ehab Amin said. "As a senior it was super emotional for me”.
With the 79-75 victory over Arizona State (22-10, 12-6), Oregon is only one win away from clinching the Pac-12 Tournament title and the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Oregon is riding a seven-game winning streak, their longest streak of the season, into the championship game versus top-seeded Washington.
Colorado, also as the six seed, is the only team to win four straight tournament games and claim a tournament title, accomplishing the feat in 2012.
The victory also etches Oregon coach Dana Altman in the history books; Altman passed Arizona’s Sean Miller for the most Pac-12 tournament wins with 18.
The 8:50pm tipoff started with Kenny Wooten blocking Arizona State’s first two shots, which would foreshadow Oregon’s domination in the first half.
When the Sun Devils made mistakes, Oregon made them pay. In the first half alone, the Ducks scored 15 points off of ASU’s seven turnovers.
Paul White and Payton Pritchard also made their presence known early. Oregon’s veterans refused to let Oregon go down without a fight; White (14 points), Pritchard (18 points), Amin (13 points) combined for 45 points.
Pritchard added eight assists, passing Johnathan Loyd (458-2010-14), for fifth in UO career assists.
However, it was Louis King who led the team with 19 points and who changed the game. The freshman willed the Ducks out of 1 of 11 scoring drought in the second half. He rattled off nine straight points to put Oregon back in striking distance.
The Ducks’ aggressive defensive play continued in the extremely physical game. UO blocked seven shots in the first half and finished with 10.
Missed free throw attempts almost killed Oregon, going 13-24 at the line.
With the end of regulation counting down, back-to-back three-pointers by White and Amin tied the game to force overtime.
Oregon outscored ASU 8-1 to open overtime, beginning with a gnarly Wooten dunk. The Ducks never lost the lead.
"We never count ourselves out,” White said. "We are grateful for how good we are playing, but we're not done”.
Who knows where Oregon found the energy, but suddenly the Ducks in the Big Dance seems incredibly possible. The Pac-12 Championship game between Oregon and Washington will be played at 7:30 p.m., Saturday.