Eugene, OR – It was a showdown Thursday night between two ranked teams from the Pac-12 and a slew of NBA Talent was on display at Matthew Knight Arena. The No. 24-ranked Arizona Wildcats came into the matchup having lost three straight to the No. 9-ranked Oregon Ducks. The Wildcats were looking to pull off the upset on the road in front 10,113 screaming fans. Arizona, once again fell short due to Payton Prichard’s big shot with 28 seconds to tie the game and send it to overtime. In the extra time, sophomore guard Will Richardson hit the go-ahead bucket to give Oregon a 74-73 thrilling overtime win.
Arizona is ranked 8th nationally in points per game and Oregon is ranked 7th for adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom. The two stats made it seem to be a matchup of offensive powers, but it was a hard fought battle with the defenses coming to play. Arizona’s tough defense in the half-court forced the Ducks into some tough shots throughout most of the first half. Midway through the half Oregon was shooting just 3-of-14 shooting with four early turnovers. Arizona’s offense at one point hit seven shots in a row as they took a 26-16 lead at the 7:55 mark.
Nico Mannion, a projected lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft, set the tone for the Wildcats quick start by hitting his first three shots. He attacked the hoop with an explosive first step beating his defender going both left and right to connect on several runners around the basket. He had been struggling shooting 5-of-30 the past few contests. Mannion ended the night shooting 9-of-17 from the field scoring 20 points, adding three assists and three rebounds. He did turn the ball over a season high six times.
Another potential first round pick and one who might be moving up into a lottery selection is 6-6 freshman, Josh Green. Against the Ducks he was almost unstoppable with his high vertical leap which allowed him to make several acrobatic lay-ins and fade away jumpers by rising high above the defender. Green made a key play late in the game by intercepting a pass and scoring on a lay-in with 21 seconds remaining in the overtime to give Arizona a 73-72 lead. Arizona begin celebrating a little too soon. Green went 7-of-11, scoring 17 points and adding five rebounds in a solid performance.
In the possession after Green’s basket, Will Richardson, the hero on the night, went coast to coast making a tough lay-in with 15 seconds remaining to give Oregon the lead. The Ducks had to survive two missed Arizona shots and have Pritchard intercept an inbound pass to escape with the win. Chris Duarte and Richardson were the consistent scorers for the Ducks. Duarte, the 6-6 shooting guard, scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds. He hit several keys shots throughout the contest, especially late in regulation. Richardson, who has played a major role coming off the bench, has been consistent throughout the season. He tallied a game-high 21 points (7-for-16) to go along with five rebounds and four assists. His clutch play in overtime was the difference in the game as he was the only player for Oregon to hit field goal, scoring seven out of the team’s eight OT points.
Payton Pritchard has made a name for himself this season as he has quickly climbed into the draft conversation as a potential second pick. He did struggle to find his shot, but still managed to play a crucial part in the win by hitting a game tying fade-away jumper over Mannion to send the game into overtime. Pritchard shot poorly (6-for-21) to finish with18 points. He did help his team in other ways by playing stellar defense as he collected three steals, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists. Pritchard, this past week was named to the John R. Wooden Award midseason list as one of the top 25 players in college basketball.
One other matchup that NBA scouts were coming to witness was between post players N’Faly Dante of Oregon and Zeke Nnaji of Arizona. Oregon was getting dominated early in the paint as they were outscored 16-2 due to the presence of Nnaji. The 6-11, 240 pound freshman brought energy and tenacity for the Wildcats. The projected first rounder had 10 rebounds in the first half including four on the offensive end. He finished with 14 rebounds, 11 points (3-for-8 FG) and two blocked shots. The balance of scoring in the paint shifted when Dante came off the bench to ignite the Ducks. The 6-11, 252-pound freshman, who is a potential lottery pick in this upcoming draft, scored 10 points going 5-for-6 from the field, grabbing five rebounds and adding two blocks. His time was limited due to foul trouble as he only played 19 minutes.
Oregon (13-3) will stay home to face the Arizona State Sun Devils (10-5) Saturday night. Arizona (11-4) will head up north to face the Oregon State Beavers (11-4) on Sunday, January 12th looking for a bounce back win.
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