Eugene, OR – The Oregon Ducks found another exasperating way to lose a game as Payton Pritchard was called for a foul on a desperation three-pointer from 35-feet by Jaylen Nowell with 1.6 seconds remaining. Nowell made all free throws, breaking a 56-all tie, to help the Washington Huskies to a 61-56 win in front of 9,464 disappointed fans in Eugene. Nowell led all scorers with 20 points while freshman Louis King led Oregon with 19 points.
Oregon went on a 15-0 run late in the game to turn a 10-point deficit into a 56-51 lead with 2:33 remaining. King’s lay-in at that point turned out to be the last Duck points scored. From that point Oregon missed one shot and committed three turnovers. A three-pointer by Nowell tied the game at 56 with 1:33 left. After a King turnover the Huskies missed two three-pointers by Matisse Thybulle sandwiched around a missed 3 from Pritchard.
The Ducks had the ball for a potential last shot after calling a timeout with 20 seconds remaining. Pritchard took the clock down to eight seconds, tried to make a move to the hoop and dribbled the ball off his foot. Nowell recovered and sped up the left sideline with Pritchard in pursuit. Novell heaved his shot up but the officials called the foul on Pritchard on the shot attempt. Replays indicated that the call was incorrect with no contact being made. But Pritchard may have contested the shot too closely giving officials the chance to make the key call on a shot that had little chance of connecting.
Oregon has now lost four home games for the first time since Matthew Knight Arena was opened in 2011. The losses with blown late leads to the Huskies and UCLA are particularly hard for them to take. The season opened with promise and a highly recruited freshman class. Key injuries to Bol Bol and Kenny Wooten have not helped things as has their inability to get their offence in gear for long stretches of time. Poor first half’s plagued the team in losses to Baylor, Houston and Oregon State. Tonight, apparently confused on how to attack Washington’s zone they relied on passing the ball on the perimeter with little player movement and the inability to get the ball inside. Then a late jump shot would occur. That is similar to what happened in their last game against Arizons State which precipitated a 19-point Sun Devil run that put that game away.
Tonight Oregon scored on their first possession getting the ball inside to center Francis Okoro. From there they did not score for 8:26. Their inefficiency included six missed shots, four of them 3s, and seven turnovers. Prior to King making a three-pointer they were down 13-2. The first half was poorly played by both teams with Washington taking a 27-19 lead into the break. Oregon had ten first half turnovers and shot only 7-of-19 from the field. Only three Ducks scored (King, Okoro and Miles Norris).
Oregon started utilizing a zone press midway in the second half, forcing Washington turnovers and getting back into the game, ultimately taking the last five-point lead. That’s been fairly typical of their games this season, using their defense to generate offense after the offensive flow has been poor and the team faced a deficit. Their press resulted in 12 second half Washington turnovers.
With Bol gone and Pritchard taking a step back this season Oregon has limited offensive firepower. Pritchard has seen his 3-point shooting decline from 41 percent last year to 33 percent. He’s shooting less that 40 percent from the field overall this season. He’s also playing less aggressively and at times seems to check out of the offense. Tonight he was scoreless in his first 27 minutes taking only three shots until he scored nine points on Oregon’s late run. At only point David Crisp, the opposing point guard was outscoring him 18-0. Pritchard has also been prone to late shot clock turnovers, reverting to street-ball type over-dribbling. That happened at Arizona State and again tonight on the final possession as he tried to dribble himself through a zone defense. He had five total turnovers tonight. With limited offensive weapons Pritchard needs to improve his offensive play.
King seems to be the player most likely to emerge as a go-to option. After a poor 6-of-18 shooting performance at Arizona State, King had a very efficient game tonight connecting on 7-of-12 shots. He’s tall and long an can create mismatches. He should be the Ducks best offensive option in key situations.
Victor Bailey Jr., who provided steady offense for most of this season, has been in a shooting slump. His 0-of-5 performance tonight extending his missed shot streak to 14 over the past two games. Wooten doesn’t appear to be fully recovered from his broken jaw, whether due to his facemask, conditioning, or the lack of offensive opportunities. He didn’t take a shot in 14 minutes of play against Arizona State and tonight made only 1-of-3 attempts. More importantly he didn’t grab a rebound in 18 minutes of action.
Norris was one of the few Ducks that impressed tonight. An agile and skilled 6-9 freshman, he connected on a nice 3-pointer from the corner, was active on defense and made a nice block. He scored 10 points in 16 minutes. Washington’s bigs, Noah Dickerson and Sam Timmins combined to shoot 8-of-8 from the field in 39 combined minutes. Oregon’s Okoro appears to be getting somewhat more comfortable offensively, making all four of his shots for eight points and added six rebounds over 20 minutes. Both teams ended the contest with 19 turnovers but the Huskies exhibited better ball movement with 18 assists compared to only 11 for the Ducks.
Oregon next faces Washington State in a must-win game on Sunday while Washington travels to Corvallis for what should be a highly competitive contest on Saturday afternoon.