Eugene, OR – Oregon took sole possession of third place in the Pac-12, withstanding a furious second-half Colorado (12-13, 5-8) comeback in a 73-60 win. Joseph Young continued his strong play, leading the Ducks with 23 points. Colorado did not look good on offense, particularly in the first half when they shot a paltry 9-of-32 as Oregon took a 39-22 halftime lead.
The Buffaloes, led by Askia Booker (20 points) closed the margin to five points (63-58) on a three-pointer by Xavier Johnson at with 4:09 remaining but couldn’t get over the hump. Dillon Brooks hit a key three-pointer on Oregon’s subsequent possession after they extended the possession with two offensive rebounds. Dwayne Benjamin has a solid game for Oregon with 11 points and 12 rebounds while Brooks look energized and finished with 14 points. Young had six assists and no turnovers as he played effectively primarily at the point again tonight. Colorado got back into the game with their pounding of the offensive boards (20 in the game) and owned a +9 rebounding advantage. Josh Scott grabbed 17 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end. They were hurt by their long-distance shooting (2-of-17). UCLA lost at Arizona State earlier in the evening by two points to give up their share of third place.
This is an off year for the Pac-12 with Arizona and Utah slotted for the conference’s only two definite NCAA tournament berths. Even with their loss tonight and a likely upcoming loss at Arizona, UCLA has the best chance to give the conference a third berth. They finish the regular season with three winnable games at home against the Washington schools and USC. A decent Pac-12 tournament performance combined with their tough out-of-conference schedule might be enough to slip the Bruins into the tournament field. UCLA played Oklahoma, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Kentucky and Alabama early in the season. They did lose all those games though, including the embarrassing 82-43 loss to Kentucky. Their RPI coming into tonight game was No. 37, which after their loss will drop them into the 40’s putting them on the wrong side of the bubble for now.
Oregon (19-8, 9-5) on the other hand, still has their work cut out even with tonight’s win. Nationally ranked Utah comes to Eugene on Sunday, a very tough match-up for the Ducks due to the Utes’ size. Then Oregon finishes with a tough trip to the Bay Area to face Stanford and Cal and a Civil War contest at Oregon State where the Beavers are undefeated heading into a tilt with Utah tomorrow night. With a lackluster non-conference slate behind them, Oregon will likely need to win three out of their last four games, plus a game or two in the Pac-12 tournament to have a shot a an NCAA tournament bid. The NIT appears more likely for the Ducks, although they certainly are a team that has over-achieved this season.
The only other Pac-12 school with a chance at a bid is Stanford. However the Cardinal (16-9) have been tanking of late, losing four of their last five including a bad loss to Washington State. That’s dropped their RPI to No. 51 with home games left against Cal and the Oregon schools before closing out the regular season at the Arizona schools. The way they are playing now the Cardinal are a long-shot to make the field unless they get hot at the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
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