Pritchard, Ducks take care of business
EUGENE — Dana Altman was getting tired of losing to Oregon State. Payton Pritchard, too.
With Pritchard scoring 23 points and the Beavers' offense mostly in dry dock, Oregon swept to a 69-54 Civil War win Thursday night at Matthew Knight Arena.
The victory ended Oregon's three-game losing streak to its archrival, which had won four of the last five meetings in the rivalry. The triumph also left the 14th-ranked Ducks (22-7 overall, including 15-0 at home, and 11-5 in Pac-12 play) in a tie for the conference lead with UCLA with two games remaining — California and Stanford at home.
Oregon beat the Bruins in their only meeting this season, so if the teams finish tied atop the standings, the Ducks will get the top seed in the Pac-12 tournament. That happy circumstance came about because the other three title contenders — Arizona State, Arizona and Colorado — all lost Thursday night.
"It's good," said Anthony Mattis, who filled in for injured Chris Duarte and scored 13 points as Pritchard's backcourt mate. "But we have to take care of our business. Can't worry about what's going on with everybody else. We still have some work to do — two good teams coming in here next week."
Altman was just glad to beat the Beavers. It had been awhile.
"They beat us three," the UO coach said. "Two games (in Corvallis), and the game here where we didn't guard anybody. We had some injuries ... we've got all kinds of excuses, but the bottom line is, we got beat."
Altman had reminded his players of that fact. A lot.
"We can't lose four times in a row," Oregon center Francis Okoro said. "Coach (Altman) was preaching that all practice. Come in and play as hard as we can. Got to get one."
Oregon was without Duarte, its No. 2 scorer and rebounder. The 6-6 senior had surgery on a broken right pinky finger, but his absence didn't matter Thursday. The Ducks won the 3-point battle by 15 points (11 for 23 to 6 for 20), won the turnover battle 15-4 and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, 11 in the first half. Oregon had 63 shots from the field, OSU 44.
"We weren't able to convert from 3, we turned it over too much, (the Ducks) had 19 more shots than us," OSU coach Wayne Tinkle said. "They rebounded (almost) half of their misses. We didn't have near the physical presence that we needed."
The Beavers (15-13, 5-11) hung in for a half, largely on the play of Ethan Thompson. The 6-5 junior guard scored 13 points, making 5 of 6 shots from the field and 3 of 4 from 3-point range, and helped limit Pritchard to eight points and two assists.
But Oregon, which led 29-25 at the break, outscored the visitors 22-4 over the first 8 1/2 minutes of the second half. By that time, the difference was 51-29, and the issue was decided. Thompson managed only two points over the final 20 minutes.
"Ethan put it on us that first half, really tore us apart," Altman said. "He's a tremendous player with the ball in his hands. (Assistant) coaches made a good call there to start doubling (him) on those ball screens, and it really helped us. It took the ball out of his hands."
The Ducks also did a nice defensive job on OSU senior Tres Tinkle, who finished with 14 points — running his consecutive string in double figures to a school-record 93 games — and 10 rebounds but fought double-teams all night. Zach Reichle knocked down three treys and scored 11 points and Kylor Kelley totaled 10 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots, but the rest of the Beavers combined for four points on 2-for-10 shooting.
"They did a great job the second half on Ethan, and our other guys weren't able to make the plays that Ethan makes for us," Coach Tinkle said. "They did a great job on Tres. We have to get those guys more looks, but in order to do that, other guys need to make contributions to keep (the opponent) honest defensively.
"I'm proud of the guys for fighting all the way to the end, but we have to have contributions from everybody. When we get that, we're a better team. When we don't, it's really tough to beat the level of talent in this league."
Oregon got a great contribution from guard Will Richardson, who was 0 for 6 from the field in the first 22 minutes and 6 for 8 thereafter, finishing with 15 points.
The biggest contributor, of course, was Pritchard, who had not had any big games against the Beavers in the past. He made 9 of 18 shots from the field, 5 of 9 from the 3-point line, and had only one turnover while playing all but the last 20 seconds.
"We knew Payton was going to come out and look to have a big game," Coach Tinkle said. "And give him credit, he hit big shots. Sometimes we weren't there. Others, we were, with a high hand, and he knocked them down. He really stepped up."
Altman claimed to have no knowledge of when Duarte will return. It would seem he'll at least miss the final two regular-season games.
"It's up in the air," the UO coach said. "Whatever the doctors say. Chris played for five games with it and couldn't do it anymore, then got it fixed. And now it's a matter of when they release him."
As long as Pritchard is healthy, the Ducks should be all right. Altman would like to see his floor leader rewarded in his final college run.
"Want him to finish strong, walk out of here with a conference (regular-season) championship, make something happen in Vegas (the Pac-12 rournament) and in the NCAA Tournament," Altman said. "Lot of season left — I hope. Got to keep grinding and trying to get better."
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