Oregon would probably be the first to admit that it had no business winning this game.
Colorado went on a 20-0 run in the first half and held the Ducks scoreless for nearly eight minutes. But Oregon turned everything around after the halftime break, forced nine turnovers, including six steals to take a 68-60 victory out of the clutches of defeat.
With the win, the Ducks improved to 8-4 in league action and 19-6 overall. The win also gave Dana Altman his 664th career victory, tying him for 28th on the all-time list with the great John Wooden.
Colorado, who is going to go back to the hotel scratching its collective head wondering how it let this game slip away, dropped to 8-4 in Pac-12 play and 19-6 overall.
The Pac-12 now has a four-way tie in the loss column as both of the Arizona schools each have four defeats with the Ducks and Buffaloes.
Oregon actually got off to a hot start in this game, leading 16-10 early, but then the Ducks went ice cold. When Chris Duarte finally ended Colorado’s 20-0 run, Oregon was down 30-18 with 3:30 left before halftime.
When the first half did end, Oregon was down 35-26, but had to feel fortunate the deficit was in single digits because it could have been a lot worse.
Altman made some adjustments. More specifically, turning up the press to where it was causing turnovers and disrupting the Colorado offense.
It also didn’t hurt that the Ducks were making some shots.
Oregon hit nearly 50 percent of their shots (14-of-30) and nailed five threes in the second half. Will Richardson sparked the offense with 17 second half points and 21 for the game to lead all scorers.
Payton Pritchard filled the stat sheet with 15 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. It was his three-pointer from way downtown with 4:38 left that brought Oregon to within two at 58-56.
Richardson then tied the game with two free throws and then gave the Ducks the lead for good with a three after yet another Buffaloes turnover.
Oregon stretched its lead to five on perhaps its best possession of the night. With the shot clock winding down, Richardson penetrated the defense and dished it to Addison Patterson for the dunk.
Patterson played his best game of his young career with six points and two assists in 14 minutes on the floor. He also made an impact on the defensive end with three crucial steals. One would have to think that performance has earned the freshman a lot more playing time when the Ducks face Utah on Sunday.
Oregon not only needed this win to move up to first place, but for its confidence as well. The Ducks had dropped two straight games and both of those losses were very avoidable. They suffered second half collapses in those road defeats at Stanford and Oregon State.
Matthew Knight Arena has been the friendly confines this season as the Ducks are now 13-0 at home. Oregon is also the only school in the country that the football team and both basketball teams are undefeated at home. Those three squads have a combined record of 33-0 in Eugene.
The men’s basketball team will try to make that mark 34-0 when they face Utah Sunday night at 6 pm televised on Fox Sports 1.
~ Don Smalley