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Oregon Defense Stymies Washington Again to Take Pac-12 Title

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Huskies Come Up Short Against Ducks for Second Consecutive Week

Oregon v Washington Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As Oregon pulled away from UW in the second half, Bill Walton perfectly summed up the game by saying that winning teams, “define the terms of the conflict- make them play your game.” After a tight first half, the Ducks exploited UW’s offensive shortcomings. The Dawgs couldn’t buy a jump shot, and Oregon’s length on the interior made it difficult to make shots at the rim. The outcome was 22% shooting for the Dawgs in the second half. Just like they did a week before, Oregon held UW under 50 points and squelched any momentum going into the NCAA tournament with a 68-48 win in Las Vegas.

As badly as the game ended on the offensive end, there was some promise early. The Huskies relied on long range offense early on. While Hameir Wright and Dominic Green made threes early, Matisse Thybulle started 0-3 and the team was only 2-8. Much like the game a week earlier, the Huskies struggled to string together productive offensive possessions. The problem was not as stark, though, and they held Oregon to a 10-10 deadlock at the under-12 minute break.

The Washington defense showed enough consistent intensity to offset the mediocre fense in the first half. Payton Pritchard kept the Ducks in the game with seven early points on 3-4 shooting. The Ducks cumulatively went over five minutes without a field goal, but they did scratch together a few trips to the free throw line to keep the game close. After a rare pair of made free throws from Francis Okoro, Victor Bailey banked in a while three at the end of the shot clock to put Oregon ahead 18-14.

Pritchard came off the bench to stop an offensive slump for the Ducks with a three in the corner. The Huskies answered with a jumper in the lane from David Crisp and a fast-break lay-up for Jaylen Nowell. The baskets were the first for the UW backcourt and brought the Dawgs back within a point. The stagnant offenses woke up at the same time in the last two minutes of the half while both teams traded baskets. Unfortunately for the Dawgs, Oregon made a pair of threes to take a 28-26 lead into halftime.

The Ducks opened up a five-point lead early in the second half after Nowell clipped Louis King on a three attempt and King made all three. The Oregon defense simultaneously clamped down even more. Kenny Wooten blocked or altered shots from Dickerson and Nowell. At the other end, Nowell tried to break up an alley-oop and added his third foul in the process. Moments later, he received his fourth while scrambling for a loose ball.

With threes not falling, few transition opportunities, and Oregon protecting the rim, the Huskies had trouble finding any way to score. A Pritchard layup with 12 minutes to play put Oregon up by 11. The UW defense kept the team in the game with only two points scored in the first eight minutes of the second half.

Even the sweet-shooting Dominic Green missed two open looks from outside to bring the team’s perimeter shooting to 2-15. Paul White drained a corner three on the following possession, and both Crisp and Dickerson missed layups the next time down. A lefty turnaround from Dickerson finally ended the 14-0 run, but the drought left the Dawgs in a massive hole.

With just over seven minutes to play in the game, Nowell drove to the basket and drew a foul. It was UW’s first trip to the line for the entire night and the makes finally gave Nowell more points (6) than fouls (4). On the next possession, White made another very difficult three and Pritchard stole a lackadaisical inbounds pass. The lack of focus was emblematic of a poor half and felt like the final nail in the coffin for UW.

As poorly as the Huskies played, they had some legitimate gripes with frustrating officiating. In addition to the free throw deficit, both Nowell and Dickerson encountered questionable foul trouble. Nowell’s fourth foul appeared to be a phantom reach-in, and Dickerson’s fifth came on a back down that looked like a flop by White.

For the night, the Ducks inflicted their will on the Huskies and the stats reflected it. UW actually won the turnover battle and even gathered more offensive rebounds. As a result, they attempted 13 more field goals, which is usually a recipe for success. Instead, Oregon’s 53% shooting dwarfed UW’s 33% shooting, and they added a 20-7 advantage in made free throws.

In the big picture, the Huskies will almost certainly make the tournament. The bad result will likely bump the Dawgs down from an 8/9 seed to a 9/10 seed. Oregon secured the needed automatic bid and puts the Pac-12 in a position to get as many as three NCAA tournament bids, which seemed highly improbable as recently as two weeks ago. Perhaps the biggest loss was UW’s momentum. After two decisive losses to Oregon, the Dawgs no longer feel like the dominant force in the Pac-12, but they will hopefully have an opportunity to rectify that direction next week.

Miscellaneous Notes

-Even if he doesn’t look the part, Pritchard dominated the game and the whole conference tournament. A dunk in the final two minutes punctuated his stand-out performance. He finished with 20 points on nine shots, six rebounds, seven assists, and four steals.

-Oregon’s two-point halftime lead had a lot to do with hot three-point shooting. They shot 5-9 from outside (to UW’s 2-11), but the Huskies played the Ducks even on the offensive glass and had a two turnover advantage.

-The Huskies combined for a respectable six assists in the first half. Somehow, David Crisp accounted for all six. While Crisp is nominally the point guard, he averages fewer than three per game, so six in a half is an aberration.

-Nobody on the team shot particularly well, but the big three of Nowell, Dickerson, and Thybulle all struggled. Respectively, they shot 2-7, 3-7, and 2-8 from the field.

-With the game decided, Walton started trolling creationist Dave Pasch with comments like, “I love evolutionary processes.”