Ducks pound Cougars for big win
EUGENE — Oregon's sudden sense of urgency is showing in Payton Pritchard's play.
It comes from being the only starter back from last year's Final Four team and how the Ducks need to finish strong to reach the postseason again.
Pritchard had 19 points and 10 assists, and Troy Brown Jr. also had a double-double to lead Oregon past Washington State 84-57 on Sunday night.
It completed a sweep of the Washington schools by a combined 52 points, a dramatic course correction coming off a 35-point loss at Stanford.
"I'd say we're definitely jelling more," Pritchard said. "We kind of moved past the bad loss to Stanford.
"We're making strides, and going into L.A. (to play USC and UCLA), we're really going to have to be together. We need both."
Brown Jr. finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high five steals for the Ducks (17-8, 7-5 Pac-12). The freshman limped to the bench after making two free throws with 44 seconds left following a flagrant foul by Malachi Flynn.
It was Pritchard's first double-double in 64 games at Oregon and the first time two Ducks players had a double-double in the same game since Dec. 3, 2014.
MiKyle McIntosh and Victor Bailey Jr. each had 13 points, and Kenny Wooten added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Flynn had 16 points to lead the Cougars (9-15, 1-11), and Viont'e Daniels added 11. Robert Franks, WSU's leading scorer at 17.9 points per game, did not play after injuring his knee Thursday night against Oregon State.
"It didn't feel right to him, so we just sat him down," WSU coach Ernie Kent said. "It's more important to get him healthy again before we put him out there.
"We needed his scoring tonight. You take 18 points off the floor and that's huge. We missed (Franks') ability to shoot the ball and spread the floor."
The Cougars trailed by only five early in the second half before six straight points from Bailey Jr., including a 4-point play, put the Ducks up 55-44. Oregon coach Dana Altman then went with Pritchard, a sophomore, and four freshmen to pressure WSU full court, and the lead grew to 67-48.
"I thought their energy was really good," Altman said of the young group. "They were finishing plays, made plays for each other. I really thought that was a good stretch for us."
The Ducks finished the game on a 14-0 run for their largest lead.
Oregon did most of its damage in transition, outscoring the Cougars 21-3 in fast-break points thanks, in part, to 11 steals. The Ducks also had their way inside with a 34-28 rebounding advantage and 30 points in the paint, compared to WSU's 12.
Pritchard had six points, including a breakaway dunk off a steal, and an assist in an 8-0 run that put Oregon ahead to stay in the first half. The Ducks led 38-28 at the break.
Oregon is now tied with Washington for fourth in the Pac-12 standings with six games to go. The top four teams receive byes in the conference tournament, avoiding an extra game in Las Vegas next month. Coach Dana Altman's 13-4 record (.765) is the best in Pac-12 tournament history.
Washington State lost its seventh consecutive game and has just three wins since opening the season 6-0. The Cougars are 0-9 on the road this season with a trip to California and Stanford remaining on the schedule.
Washington State: Hosts Colorado on Thursday night.
Oregon: Plays at USC on Thursday night.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Dana Altman is now one of six active coaches with 21 or more consecutive winnings seasons. The other five are in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The Ducks clinched an eighth-straight winning season, all under Altman, for the first time in 86 years.
Wooten sparked a 5-0 run to end the first half with a two-handed volleyball block that Brown Jr. turned into a dunk and 3-point play. Wooten had two blocks in just 44 seconds after coming off the bench at the first media timeout and three for the game to give him 73, tied for third most by a Pac-12 freshman.
Brown Jr. produced his best back-to-back games of the season against the Washington schools and now has four double-doubles. His top play was a back-court steal with a behind-the-back dribble to avoid a Cougar and a driving finish over Drick Bernstine for a 3-point play and a 63-48 lead.
HE SAID IT
Oregon has a reputation for strong second-half finishes in the Pac-12 under Altman, second only to Arizona over the past eight seasons. WSU's Kent, an Oregon alum and ex-Duck coach, sees it happening again. ""That team is going to be good," he said. "They're making mistakes right now, but they're getting better with each outing, and we've got a little bit more work to do before we can catch a team at that level."