No. 13 Oregon can finish with no worse than a share of the Pac-12 Conference title if it can beat Stanford on Saturday in Eugene, Ore., in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Oregon (23-7, 12-5 Pac-12) pulled into a tie atop the conference on Thursday with its 90-56 blowout of visiting Cal. The Ducks went into the two-game series against the Bay Area programs a half-game behind UCLA, which was idle ahead of its regular-season finale Saturday at Southern California.
“We haven’t won that many (conference championships), so it is important,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said in his postgame press conference. “Everybody talks about the March tournament, the NCAA Tournament, but I still (think) conference titles still mean quite a bit.”
Win or lose Saturday, Oregon is guaranteed one of the four first-round byes at next week’s Pac-12 Conference tournament in Las Vegas. A win over the Cardinal would guarantee the Ducks the tournament’s top seed by virtue of having won its lone meeting with UCLA.
Oregon’s lopsided win on Thursday included a 21-0 run in the first half, putting the Golden Bears away early. It was much different story for Stanford in its 68-65 loss at Oregon State on Thursday.
The Cardinal (20-10, 9-8) battled back from a 10-point deficit in the second half to take a one-point lead with less than a minute remaining.
“The last dozen minutes, I thought we were ‘us,’ which means defensively we had an identity and we were a little more physical,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase told reporters. “I was impressed with the team for them to come back in the second half.”
Oregon State pulled away at the free-throw line, snapping Stanford’s four-game winning streak.
The loss dropped Stanford behind Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and USC, all of which are tied at 10-7 heading into the final day of regular-season competition. The four-team logjam ahead of the Cardinal complicates their hopes of securing one of the four byes in the Pac-12 tournament.
Stanford needs a win in Eugene to keep that slim hope alive, but also for bolstering its NCAA Tournament resume. The Cardinal already boast one win over Oregon, as they knocked off the Ducks 70-60 on Feb. 1.
Oregon All-America candidate Payton Pritchard scored 16 points in the first meeting, but Stanford held the Pac-12 Player of the Year front-runner to just 5-of-21 shooting. The Cardinal limited Chris Duarte to the same shooting performance and held the Ducks to just 29.2 percent shooting from 3-point range.
Oregon comes into Saturday’s rematch hitting 39.2 percent from beyond the arc as a team, one of the best averages in the nation. Pritchard has been excellent from outside, particularly of late.
His 20 points on Thursday marked his third consecutive game scoring at least 20, and fourth in the last five contests, and he has made at least three 3-pointers in five consecutive games.
At 47.5 percent and 44.5 percent shooting from behind the arc, respectively, backcourt mates Will Richardson and Anthony Mathis rank among the very best of all Division I shooters from outside.
In Thursday’s romp, the Ducks shot a Matthew Knight Arena record 70.6 percent from outside as a team.
“When you’re hitting shots like that, it takes steam out of your opponent,” Altman said.
Stanford’s defense has been its hallmark through the season, boasting opponent averages of 39.3 percent from inside the arc, and 29 percent beyond it — approximately the same yield it limited Oregon to on Feb. 1.
The Cardinal can generate turnovers effectively, with Oscar da Silva, Tyrell Terry and Daejon Davis all averaging more than a steal per game.
–Field Level Media