The life on the road in the Pac-12 is never an easy one and this season is absolutely no exception.
There’s only been a couple of teams to accomplish a sweep on the road in this conference and it seems like every road trip is full of surprises.
Oregon just came home from one of those trips.
Going down to the desert, the Ducks were hoping for one of those rare sweeps, but instead avoided getting swept if it weren’t for an historical night from one Payton Pritchard.
Considering the game before, the stage wasn’t exactly set for one of those memorable nights, however. Pritchard shook off a disappointing performance in Tempe and a loss to Arizona State to light up Arizona in Tucson for an epic win.
Oregon defeated the Wildcats 73-72 in overtime thanks to Pritchard’s 38 points, a career high. His previous high was 29.
When he nailed a 26-footer in the face of Nico Mannion, the Ducks had to know this was going to be a good night. Pritchard scored 20 by halftime and finished regulation with 18 more.
Ironically, it wasn’t Pritchard that carried the Ducks in the extra period. Instead, it was Shakur Juiston that lifted the Oregon offense. He scored all nine of the Ducks’ points in that overtime, including a lay-in with just 1.4 second left on an inside dish from Will Richardson.
The win lifted Oregon to a 10-5 conference record and 21-7 overall with a Pac-12 title still in sight. A loss would have meant possibly a fifth place finish, quite a difference from a championship. The Ducks are one-half game out of first place with three games left.
Oregon put themselves in that precarious position of a must-win at Arizona when a bad first half put the Ducks behind the 8-ball and an eventual 77-72 loss to the Sun Devils, who now sits on top of the Pac-12 standings at 10-4.
A 34-23 deficit at halftime was too much to overcome even though the Ducks did manage to tie the game. But they ran out of gas towards the end and ASU pulled away.
Now the Ducks come back home with three straight games to close out the regular season with the Civil War next. Oregon owes the Beavers a little pay back having lost three straight to their rivals, including a 63-53 loss in Corvallis Feb. 8.
The Ducks and Beavers meet up Thursday for an 8 pm tip on ESPN2.
~ Don Smalley