Las Vegas, NV. – Dominic Green nailed a three-pointer and Matisse Thybulle followed with a steal and dunk to propel the top-seeded Washington Huskies to a hard-fought 79-75 win over USC in the first Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal played today at T-Mobile Arena. The Trojans had cut Washington’s lead to 72-71 on a three-pointer by Jonah Matthews with 1:10 remaining. USC had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds with a three-pointer but lost the ball on a bad pass by center Nick Rakocevic.
Both teams shot well with the Huskies connecting on eight of their first 13 three-point field goal attempts. Washington was successful on 13-of-28 (46.4 percent) on their long distance tries in the game while USC shot a respectable 11-of-27 from distance (40.7 percent). Jaylen Nowell was exceptional for the winners with 24 points, eight rebounds and three assists. He shot a perfect 4-of-4 on 3s. David Crisp added 18 points, connecting on 3-of-6 from distance. Thybulle (4 points) didn’t do much on offense but did come up with five steals.
USC’s Kevin Porter Jr. played his most extensive time of the season and showed why he’s a projected first round draft choice. Porter Jr. scored 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, grabbed six rebounds and added two steals and a nice block at the rim in 34 minutes of action. Porter showed nice touch on his shot and displayed his athleticism on multiple occasions. Rakocevic was impressive after an off game yesterday and contributed 17 points and 17 rebounds. He was active all game in the post on both ends. Matthews totaled 17 points and Bennie Boatwright had 16, each connecting on four shots from deep.
Colorado (21-11) played poorly in a close win over Cal yesterday. They apparently got that out of their system, starting strongly and thwarting a second half Oregon State (18-13) rally in a 73-58 win over the No. 4-seeded Beavers. The Beavers came out flat and couldn’t seem to get anything going offensively, only scoring eight points in the first 13 minutes of the game and missing their first ten three-pointers. The Buffaloes, on the other hand shot over 50 percent in the first half and connected on 5-of-11 from deep.
The Beavers tried to make a game of it in the second half, scoring ten consecutive points in cutting a 16-point deficit to six points. The lead stayed between six and eight points until Colorado reeled off five straight points on a nice Alexander Strating drive and an inside basket from 6-8, 264-pound freshman Evan Battey (10 points, 9 rebounds). The 6-7 Strating, a native of the Netherlands, was a big help to Colorado, scoring ten points after coming into the contest averaging 1.3 ppg. Point guard McKinley Wright led four players in double-figures for Colorado with 17 points. Shane Gatling added 15 points, connecting on 3-of-4 3s. Tres Tinkle led the Beavers with 23 points but was only 8-of-21 from the field, Colorado out-rebounded Oregon State by 11. They will face top-seeded Washington in the first semi-final tomorrow night.
No. 2-seed Arizona State used a 16-point run late in the first half to the early second half to break open a close game. They went on to a relatively easy 83-72 win over UCLA in the first game of the evening session. A halftime buzzer-beater from halfcourt by Kimani Lawrence highlighted the run. Lawrence bobbled the ball and heaved it at the last second for the basket. The Sun Devils Rob Edwards (15 points) did the damage from outside and Romelo White (19 points, 7 rebounds) scored inside to help the Sun Devils to the win.
Kris Wilkes (25 points) and Jaylen Hands (21 points) helped keep the Bruins relatively close. A three-pointer from Wilkes with 4:40 left cut the Sun Devils lead to nine points but UCLA couldn’t make a serious run. Arizona State’s Zylan Cheatham (13 points, 13 rebounds) came on late in the second half to help put the Bruins away.
Oregon used their defense to generate renewed offense in the second half to rally and get past Utah 66-54 in the final game of the day. Payton Pritchard and Louis King led with Ducks with 20 points each. Donnie Tillman scored 18 points to lead the Utes.
The Ducks pressured Utah relentlessly throughout most possessions mostly resulting in poor, late shot-clock attempts by the Utes. While they only forced 12 Utah turnovers they limited the Utes to 2-of-23 shooting on three-pointers. Parker Van Dyke, Utah’s best three-point shooter was 0-of-7 and Sedrick Barefield was 1-of-9.
The first half was a defensive battle. Coming into the game Oregon held opponents to less than 62 points in five consecutive games. That was the first time they have done that in 35 years, a year before the shot clock was instituted. The Ducks played great defense in the half holding Utah to 24 first half points and forcing seven turnovers. Unfortunately for Oregon, Utah also played solid defense holding the Ducks to one made shot over their first ten attempts and 8-for-29 (27.6 percent) overall in the half. The Utes held a 24-18 lead at the break. Utah’s Tillman was the only effective player for either team who was effective on offense in the half. He had 12 first half points and got to the foul line six times, making five.
Oregon’s defense came up big at the start of the second half coming up with two straight steals and lay-ups by Pritchard that tied the score at 24. A three-point play by Pritchard gave the Ducks their first lead of the night at 31-28. Louis King also came through with a three-point play after an offensive rebound to extend the lead to 34-30. A King three-pointer at the end of the shot clock pushed the lead to 38-32. Paul White made a key three-pointer after Utah cut the lead to four points, extending the Duck lead to 50-43 with 4:18 remaining. The Utes didn’t seriously threaten after that point.
The Ducks shot 60.7 percent from the field in the second half with Pritchard scoring 16 points and King 15 points. Oregon scored 48 second half points after their 16 point effort in the first half. Their ball movement in the second half was much better with much of their offense coming off defensive stops. Freshman center Francis Okoro dominated the paint defensively coming up with six second half blocks, some which resulted in fast break points for the Ducks.
Oregon advances to play Arizona State in the second semifinal at 8:30pm on Friday. It’s the fifth straight year that Oregon has advanced to the semifinals. They are 3-0 against the Sun Devils in the Pac-12 tournament and defeated them by 28 points in their last meeting.