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Victory in defeat: Oregon Basketball falls in Sweet 16

Victory in defeat: Oregon Basketball falls in Sweet 16

Six weeks ago, if you would have said Oregon basketball would lose by four points in the Sweet 16 to top-seeded Virginia, I would have bet money against you. Could you have blamed me? The Ducks were 10th in the Pac-12 Conference with a 15-12 record.

The odds were stacked against them but the Ducks had their eye on the NCAA Tournament. Oregon earned the conference’s automatic berth by winning the Pac-12 Tournament as the No. 6 seed, to become the team that wasn’t that wasn’t supposed to be in the Big Dance. As the South Region 12-seed, Oregon grinded out a 10-game winning streak with stout defense and a commanding performance by junior guard Payton Pritchard. 

The Ducks battled for a chance to go from sweet to elite but ultimately, fell short.

"We were right there, down to the wire," Pritchard said. "We're going to look back at this and it's going to be frustrating for a while now. But for the way we turned around this season and proved all the doubters wrong and won ten straight to make it this far, we're going to look at that as a positive".

Usually when a team holds an opponent to 36 percent shooting, they would lead. Not in this case. The Ducks were far from perfect in the first half; Oregon scored zero points off turnovers, grabbed zero offensive

rebounds, made zero free throws, only took 21 shot attempts, got out-rebounded 20-13, blocked zero shots and gave up six second chance points.

Yuck.

After reading that, you are probably thinking, Oregon was lucky to only be down 30-22 at half.

You’d be correct.

The deficit would have been much larger without senior Ehab Amin, who brought the energy off the bench and lead the team with eight first half points. Although, his most memorable moment from the game came from a flop deserving of an Oscar after being head-butted by Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite, which ended in a double technical.

The Cavaliers closed the half on a 17-4 run that added up to the largest halftime deficit the Ducks have faced in the last 11 games.

The odds were once again stacked the Ducks, as Virginia is 27-0 when leading at the half this season and has won 60 straight games when leading at the half.

However, this Oregon team is used to unlikely odds, as the only double-digit seed in the Sweet 16, Oregon had 20 minutes to make history. No 12 seeded team has ever defeated a top seed in NCAA Tournament play.

The Ducks weren’t going down without a fight, opening the second half with a mini 5-0 run thanks to a Paul White deep three and a Francis Okoro offensive rebound that led he converted to a basket.

Oregon's 18-14 edge on the boards, a major halftime adjustment, helped close the deficit. Freshman Louis King continued his clutch shooting, leading UO with 16 points on 5-of-12. He also added four rebounds.

Pritchard continued his tear, scoring 11 points with seven rebounds and four assists. The junior rose in Oregon record books; becoming fourth in UO season assists and 19th in UO career scoring.

Ultimately, down the stretch Oregon missed ample chances to take the victory and relyed too much on the three, missing a flurry of shots in the last five minutes. Virginia sealed the win and advanced to the Elite Eight to face Purdue. Ty Jerome scored 13 points to lead four Cavaliers in double-figures.

In his last game as a Duck, senior Paul White scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds.

"The character that we showed speaks more volumes than the results that happened tonight," White said.  "We really slugged it out and I think this team going forward is going to be a tremendous team".

After losing star freshman Bol Bol to a season ending injury, overcoming injuries to King and Kenny Wooten, Oregon finished the 2018-19 season with a 25-13 record and as the last Pac-12 team standing in the NCAA Tournament. No Oregon coach has more victories than coach Dana Altman (235 wins, 9 seasons), who also signed a contract extension through 2025-26. Oregon could return as many as eight players (Bol and King have not declared) and add a top 10 recruiting class.

Sounds like a victory to me.

Resilient Ducks only one win away from clinching the Pac-12 Tournament title

Resilient Ducks only one win away from clinching the Pac-12 Tournament title

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.

Oregon spoils Washington's perfect home season record

Oregon spoils Washington's perfect home season record

Oregon basketball closed the curtain on the 2018-19 regular season by spoiling Washington’s 16-0 home winning streak and what would have been the Huskies first undefeated season at home since 2004-05. The Ducks beat the Pac-12 champions, 55-47, on their senior night at Alaska Airlines Arena in front of a sell out crowd of 10,000.

Oregon will be the six seed in the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, facing No 11 seeded Washington State at 8:30pm on Wednesday. The Ducks will need to win four games in a row to be Pac-12 Tournament champions and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

"They know the tournament is right around the corner, they know we want to finish strong," said Altman. “We're playing for momentum.”

The Ducks got off to a great start against rival UW, leading 27-18 at halftime with much thanks to winning the rebounding battle, points in the paint, scoring points off turnovers and senior Paul White’s 10 first half points.

However, then the Ducks open the second half with three straight bad passes and allowed Washington to close the deficit to 27-22.

The Ducks struggled from three-point range, shooting 18 percent from the arc.

But the Huskies struggled even worse offensively, shooting 33 percent from the field, 15 percent from three-point range.

Washington's Jaylen Nowell wasn’t going to let UW go down without a fight. He led all shooters with 17 points.

Payton Pritchard moved into the UO top five in career steals. His finished with five steals tonight, 153 for his career, surpassing Luke Ridnour (150/2000-03), who was in attendance tonight. Pritchard led the Ducks with16 points.
The Ducks have won four straight games for the first time this season in conference play. With the tournament looming, Oregon is peaking at the right time.

Oregon basketball's season finale: A perfect time to peak

Oregon basketball's season finale: A perfect time to peak

Oregon basketball’s regular season finale just became more interesting. On a three-game winning streak, the Ducks (18-12, 9-8 Pac-12) are putting it together just in time and are currently in the running for a first round Pac-12 Tournament bye. Oregon has one final test on their regular season schedule: at Washington.

The Ducks are tied for fifth place in the Pac-12 standings with third and fourth place still wide open. Oregon will need to keep cooking to beat first place Washington (24-6, 15-2) on Saturday night in Seattle.

The recipe for Oregon’s 72-61 road victory over 11th place Washington State on Wednesday night? Upperclassmen Paul White and Payton Pritchard helping Oregon find offensive momentum from the jump, forcing 17 turnovers, scoring 30 points off WSU’s turnovers, shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc, monstrous Kenny Wooten block and 31 bench points.

White scored a career-high 21 points with four three-pointers and a team-high six rebounds.

Oregon’s momentum continues to build with visible improvement of defensive intensity, 50-50 ball fight and sharing the ball on offense.

If Oregon continues this fight, I don’t see why they aren’t contenders in the Pac-12 Tournament, which begins next Wednesday in Las Vegas. The top-four seeds advance to the quarterfinal and only have to win three games to be champions.

The first round bye is historically crucial to victory. Since 2014, the Pac-12 tournament winner has been the one or two seed. The only team to win four games to become champion was Colorado in 2012, as a six seed.

“We don’t have control over it, so we just got to go play. If it happens, it happens but it doesn’t happen if we don’t win on Saturday,” Altman said. “All we need to be focused on is playing well at Washington and find a way to win.”

The Pac-12 standings are a mess and Oregon doesn’t have full control over its destiny but a win on Saturday in Seattle is still up for grabs.

Oregon's momentum surges: Ducks beat Arizona on senior night

Oregon's momentum surges: Ducks beat Arizona on senior night

Oregon’s defense kept them in the game against Arizona (17-13, 8-9 Pac-12) in a fight for Pac-12 Conference standings and momentum ahead of the Pac-12 Tournament.

The Ducks held the Wildcats to their lowest point total of the season and 31 percent shooting from the field.

Oregon (17-12, 8-8) seniors Ehab Amin and Paul White drew loud ovations from 11,339 fans in their Matthew Knight Arena finale. Both White (five points, five rebounds) and Amin (six points, two rebounds) had solid performances in the 73-47 victory.

"Coach has been telling me just to stay positive, just be ready whenever you're called," Amin said. "That's all I can control, is staying ready."

On senior night, the Ducks’ young lineup had incredible success in a game plagued with streaks. After falling behind 9-0, the Ducks blazed forward and strung together a 5:23 stretch with four freshman in the lineup (Will Richardson, Louis King, Miles Norri, Francis Okoro, plus Amin,) in a 13-0 run to get back in the game. Arizona closed the half on a 17-6 run to tie the game at 31-31.

Oregon went on a 10-0 run to start the second half and never lost the lead.

King once again led the Ducks with 14 points and seven rebounds. The freshman has now scored double-figures in 15 of 16 Pac-12 games this season.

Also notable, junior guard Payton Pritchard passed Terik Brown (1,152/1995-99) for 28th in Oregon career scoring. Pritchard scored 12 vs. ASU and currently has 1,159 career points.

Coming off a home stand victory over Arizona State, the Ducks showed fight, added to their positive momentum and halted Arizona’s four game winning streak.

By the way, Oregon football head coach Mario Cristobal was in attendance for senior night.

The victory moves Oregon into a tie for fifth in the conference and one game out of fourth place, which provides a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Could you make a case for Oregon to get hot and win the tournament?

Oregon upsets Arizona: Quick takeaways

Oregon upsets Arizona: Quick takeaways

Oregon just upset Arizona (13-5, 4-1 Pac-12) at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz., 59-54. A few takeaways from the big win:

The Ducks handed the wildcats their first Pac-12 loss with huge help from their defense and rebounding. Oregon held Arizona to 37 percent shooting from the field.  Oregon had nine offensive rebounds that led to 11 second-chance points. 

The return of Kenny Wooten: After not disclosing whether Wooten would play against Arizona or not, Wooten suited up and played 25 minutes with a full-face mask. His impact was immediate with an inside presence that Arizona didn't have an answer for. He finished with five points, seven rebounds and one block (although it looked more like two or three). 

Payton Pritchard's Duck legacy continues: He scored his 1,000th career point. The only Oregon native scholarship player on the roster, Pritchard is 37th in UO history to reach that milestone. 

Paul White continues to step up: The senior led UO with 16 points and five rebounds. The win marks his fifth consecutive game with double-figure points. 

Oregon closed out a tight victory: Single digits have decided six of the last seven meetings between Oregon and Arizona. To close out the game, the Ducks grabbed three offensive rebounds and Louis King made three of four free throws with 90 seconds to go. 

The Ducks improve to 2-2 in Pac-12 conference play, 11-6 overall. Next up, Arizona State. 

Kenny Wooten Watch: Oregon basketball upset brewing at Arizona?

Kenny Wooten Watch: Oregon basketball upset brewing at Arizona?

Oregon begins its first Pac-12 conference road trip vs. the Arizona Wildcats, who currently ranks first in the Pac-12. Single digits have decided five of the last six meetings between Oregon and Arizona. Can the Ducks build on their win over USC and upset Arizona? Let's get you in the know:

Records: Oregon (10-6, 1-2 Pac-12), Arizona (13-4, 4-0)

Wooten Watch: After missing Oregon’s last four games with a broken jaw, Kenny Wooten was wearing a mask as he went through drills during Tuesday’s practice. Important to note: he did not participate in contact drills. Coach Dana Altman said Wooten is unlikely to return to face Arizona. However, it could be a game time decision or Altman may want to keep the Wildcats guessing. 

Wounded Ducks: Oregon is down to only eight scholarship players this weekend with the loss of Bol Bol (season ending injury), Abu Kigab (transfer) and Wooten (broken jaw). The trio of Bol, Kigab and Wooten combined an average 30.2 points, 17.2 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game.

Record Watch: Junior guard Payton Pritchard comes into the Arizona game needing two points to reach 1,000 in his career.

Fun Fact: During Oregon vs. Arizona matchups, the winning team has scored at least 80 points in nine consecutive games.

King, heating up: Freshman Louis King has reached double-figure points in three straight games. King is averaging 19.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in Pac-12 play.

Wildcats to watch: Sophomore Brandon Randolph, Arizona's leading scorer, has scored in double figures in every game (17 games) this season. Senior guard Justin Coleman has 995 career points and is five away from 1,000. Freshman Brandon Williams is 5 of his last 7 from 3-point range after a 2-of-14 stretch.

Cats are rollin’: Arizona is 4-0 in Pac-12 play for the third time under coach Sean Miller and have won seven straight games. Arizona is 91-4 at home since the start of the 2013-14 season, which is the best mark in the country.

How and where to watch

Time: Thursday, Jan. 17, 6 p.m

Where: McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.

TV: ESPN

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