Las Vegas, NV. – Oregon turned in another superlative defense effort and Payton Pritchard played likely his best collegiate game as they demolished top-seeded Washington 68-48 in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game. It was the Ducks’ fifth tournament championship and they became only the second team to win the event after playing four games in four days. The win was Oregon’s eighth in a row.
Oregon held Washington to only nine points over the first 15 minutes of the second half. At one point the Huskies missed 11 shots in a row and ended the half shooting a paltry 22 percent from the field. The Ducks outscored the Huskies 40-22 in the half. Oregon went on a 16-2 run at the start of the half to pull out to a 44-28 lead as Louis King scored seven consecutive Oregon points. Kenny Wooten protected the hoop and blocked four shots while altering several others. In a 10-minute stretch at the start of the second half Washington missed seven shots inside the rim. Wooten also led Oregon with seven rebounds.
The Ducks guarded relentlessly with only a few missed assignments and continually forced Washington into tough, late shot clock attempts. No Washington player scored in double-figures. They were led by Jaylen Nowell, who battled foul trouble and scored eight points on 2-of-7 shooting. For the game the Huskies shot 33.3 percent from the field including a 21.7 effort (5-of-23) from long distance. Oregon out-rebounded Washington by nine but had 16 additional opportunities on the Huskies’ 37 missed shots. The Ducks set a tournament record with 23 total blocked shots and Wooten set an individual record with ten blocks over the event.
Pritchard, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, ended the contest with 20 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals. He started off strongly, scoring seven of Oregon’s first ten points. He tried to force the action aggressively throughout the game and was able to dribble penetrate the Washington zone. Pritchard capped the Ducks’ performance by scoring after stealing an inbounds pass to put Oregon up by 21 with over three minutes left and then featured a rare dunk with 1:47 left. He was 7-of-9 from the field, 2-of-4 from distance and made all four of his free throws. Senior Paul White connected on several important mid-range jumpers and one three-pointer that extended Oregon’s second half lead. White finished with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Louis King, playing after injuring his ankle in the Arizona State win, added 15 points, hitting 2-of-3 three-point attempts and all five of his free throws. Oregon made 20-of-22 free throws in the game, missing their first two and then connecting on 20 in a row.
The first half was, as to be expected, dominated by both teams’ defenses. Oregon led at the half 28-26 helped by 10 points from Pritchard. Pritchard dominated Oregon’s offense, making 4-of-5 shots from the field including 2-of-3 from deep. He added five rebounds and three assists. They only mistakes he made in the half were two long passes attempting to reach Wooten for dunks that both resulted in turnovers. Oregon was hounded by Washington’s defense into committing nine turnovers. King hit both his three-point attempts and White as effective with seven points on 3-of-5 shooting. Oregon shot 5-of-9 on three-pointers over Washington’s zone defense. No Washington player scored more than five points in the half. The Huskies shot only 2-of-11 from distance and only generated five points off Oregon’s nine turnovers. The largest lead of the half was four-points by the Ducks on three occasions.
The end of season turnaround for Oregon was quite spectacular as the team refocused after blowing big leads in several games and just getting blown out in others. The team concentrated on improving their defense and did so to the point of having the best defensive run in decades. As Coach Altman noted “In the 39 years I’ve been lucky enough to do this, I’ve never seen a team make that drastic of a change in a three- or four-week period”.
Oregon will now wait to see where they are placed in the NCAA Tournament, where they will be making their 16th appearance. Washington is still likely a No. 8 or No. 9 seed and will be awaiting news on their seeding and location in the tournament as well.