It might have been Senior Night, but with the way Payton Pritchard was playing, the eventual conference Player of the Year could have played all night long.
The Oregon point guard capped off his final regular season as a Duck with 29 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead Oregon to a 80-67 win over Stanford. But more importantly, the victory gave the Ducks the Pac-12 championship and completely a little history.
Oregon became the first Pac-12 school and second school in NCAA Division-I to win a conference title in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball in the same school year. Ohio State is the only other institution to accomplish the rare feat.
It was also the first time since 1945 Oregon clinched a conference title at home.
Coming into the night, the Ducks knew they had at least a share of the Pac-12 title when USC was able to defeat UCLA 71-69 earlier in the day. Jonah Matthews hit a three with 1.0 on the clock to stun their crosstown rivals.
Sharing a title just isn’t the same as winning it outright and the Ducks needed to avenge a loss they suffered to the Cardinal over a month ago.
In that game, Oregon might have played its worst half of the season and watched Stanford take a 70-60 win. It was a very different outcome tonight in Eugene in front of 10,862 inside Matthew Knight Arena.
It was a close 36-31 halftime lead for the Ducks, who shot 60 percent on 15-of-25 shooting in that first half. Unlike in Palo Alto where Oregon couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn, the Ducks continued to shoot at a blistering pace in the second half.
Overall, Oregon nailed 57 percent of their shots, going 29-of-51 from the field, including 10-of-19 from long range. Pritchard hit four of those threes and none of them weren’t next to the line. He regularly shot from and hit from 30 feet. On one play, Pritchard was on a fast break and stop and popped from a good 35 feet away from the hoop that found nothing but the bottom of the net.
But he got plenty of help offensively.
Anthony Mathis scored 14, including nailing four treys of his own. The West Linn native and Pritchard’s high school teammate has really stepped up when Chris Duarte went down to a broken pinkie finger. Mathis, who went on a prolonged shooting slump, seemingly has found his stroke again, which will be a huge plus as the Ducks enter the post-season.
Will Richardson added 12 to go along with Addison Patterson’s nine and N’Faly Dante’s eight points and four rebounds. Shakur Juiston scored just six, but led with nine rebounds and played great defense against Stanford’s front line.
Oscar DaSilva led the Cardinal with 18 points and seven rebounds.
Stanford kept itself within shouting distance of the Ducks and made threes at critical times when it looked like Oregon was starting to run away with the contest.
It was 67-53 Ducks with just under five minutes left, but the Cardinal scored seven straight to make it a three-possession game at 60-60 with three minutes remaining.
That was when Pritchard penetrated the defense, laid it in and completed old fashioned three-point play with 2:02 left to make it 72-62. That play took the wind out of Stanford’s sails and it was just a matter of making free throws and Oregon could officially be called Pac-12 champions.
Oregon ended the regular season 24-7 and 13-5 in Pac-12 action and will now enter the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas as the 1 seed. The Ducks are scheduled to play on Thursday and will face the winner of the Utah-Oregon State game at noon on the Pac-12 Network.
~ Don Smalley