The Ducks are dancing.
Oregon became just the second team in Pac-12 tournament history to win four games in four days and to punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament.
Colorado accomplished the feat in 2012, but the Buffaloes didn’t do it quite like the 2018-19 Ducks.
Oregon shut down Washington in the second half by holding the Huskies to just 22 points and pulled away with a 68-48 win in Las Vegas.
Payton Pritchard led the Ducks in just about every way possible, offensively, defensively, and in the intangibles like leadership. The stat sheet says the junior point guard scored 20 points, grabbed six boards and handed out seven assists. He also ended his game with a very rare left-handed dunk off of a steal, his last of four thefts on the night.
The stats say Kenny Wooten just scored four points, but the impact the sophomore center had on the second half can’t be measured by numbers alone and this was coming off one of the worst halves in his young career. Wooten was having a hard time even catching the ball and was no where on the defensive end.
Oregon is used to watching Wooten dominate the key defensively, but he wasn’t to be found in the first 20 minutes. But then the real Kenny Wooten emerged after the halftime break.
He was blocking shots, four, and even more than the blocks, he was altering shots, making it near impossible for the Huskies to score on the inside. Wooten and his other teammates rebounded the ball and not allowing second chance points.
Washington shot 6-of-27 in the second half (22 percent) and just 3-of-15 from long range. The Huskies had to have known that scoring would be at a premium as Oregon held them to a season-low 47 points a week ago in Seattle.
The defense traveled to Vegas for the Ducks as Oregon held teams to 51, 54, 75 and 48 in the four conference tourney games.
Besides Pritchard, Oregon got contributions from the likes of Ehab Amin, Francis Okoro and Will Richardson. Amin played a pesky defense and suddenly found his shot. Okoro held his own on the inside and managed to find the open player on the outside for clutch three-pointers. And Richardson was a stabilizing force at the point guard position when Pritchard was resting or playing the two guard.
Louis King, who was able to ignore a bum ankle, scored 15 points and Paul White added 14 points.
Oregon also shot free throws to the tune of 20-of-22. That was a significant change from the night before where the Ducks struggled against ASU.
But on this night, everything went right for the Ducks and nothing was going the Huskies’ way.
Going down to Vegas is usually a winning proposition for Oregon, but even a month ago, no one saw this coming, not even the Ducks themselves. They were struggling mightily and giving up double digit leads left and right. Oregon would have been happy winning one in Vegas and prepare for an opponent in the NIT.
But then the defense clicked, winners of eight straight games and will watch the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday to see where the committee sends them and with what seed.
At this point, however, none of the matters. Just the Oregon is dancing is more than enough reason for the Ducks to smile.
~ Don Smalley