With 19.3 seconds left, Oregon found itself in a tie game with the ball. It was a good spot to be in because it appeared that the Ducks would either win the game in regulation or settle for overtime, waiting for the last shot.
Disaster struck as Oregon turned it over before fouling 40-feet away, leading to three Washington free throws with 1.6 seconds left. The Huskies converted as Oregon (11-8, 2-4 Pac-12) suffered another heartbreaking loss at home, falling 61-56 to first-place Washington (15-4, 6-0 Pac-12).
Point guard Payton Pritchard, Oregon’s most veteran player, had the ball in his hands with four seconds left before he turned it over. Jaylen Norwell picked up the ball and as he crossed half court, began to rise for a 40-footer for the win. Unfortunately, Pritchard fouled Norwell, giving the Huskies the three free throws to end the game.
“I watched the play from a lot of different angles… it was a tough call,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said of Pritchard’s questionable foul late in the game.
“I feel like in that situation, in a tie game, just let the kids play,” was Louis King’s response when asked about the controversial ending. “I didn’t think he (Pritchard) fouled… I think he was just trying to contest the shot, and unfortunately the ref called the foul.”
King led the Ducks with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, drawing a game-high six fouls with his ability to attack the rim. Freshman Francis Okoro added eight points and six rebounds while Pritchard finished with nine points and four assists.
Early in the second half, it appeared the game wasn’t going to be close in the end based on the way the Ducks were playing.
With 8:07 remaining, Oregon found itself down 51-42 following a Washington three-pointer. Pritchard responded with a three-pointer on the next possession, igniting a 14-0 run to give the Ducks a 56-51 lead with 2:33 to play.
It wasn’t just the offense that got going, it was Oregon’s defense that did the damage. Using a full court press, the Ducks forced six Huskies turnovers which led to eight of the 14 points.
“Our energy picked up on the court — our bench really picked us up,” King said. “We felt that we weren’t playing very hard and we just picked it up and started going in transition — we got steals and easy buckets.”
Washington was led by Norwell and his game-high 20 points (3-of-4 from deep). David Crisp added 17 points (4-of-8 from beyond the arc) while Noah Dickerson added 11 points.
The game didn’t start out well for Oregon, as Washington raced out to a 13-2 lead, putting the Ducks in a deep hole. With Paul White struggling due to an injured ankle, freshman Miles Norris came off the bench to provide a spark.
Using his 6-foot-10 frame, Norris (10 points) was able to overpower the smaller Husky defenders while being more athletic than Dickerson — the result being six points.
Where the Ducks struggled was from its veterans. As White was limited, Pritchard and Victor Bailey Jr. combined to shoot 0-for-5 in the first half as King, Norris and fellow freshman Francis Okoro did all the scoring.
“It seems like every game they’re beginning to grow more and more,” White side of the freshmen. “It started with Lou and then you started to see the progress of Francis and Miles — we always see it in practice, how talented they really are.”
Bailey’s struggles continued into the second half as he went 0-for-2 before making all three of his free throws. He’s 0-for-14 in the last two games, missing five consecutive three-pointers — not good numbers from one of the Ducks’ best and most athletic three-point shooters.
Pritchard overcame his early struggles to knock down three three-pointers in the second half, all of which came in a five minutes span that helped the Ducks back into the game.
The Ducks now have two days to regroup before facing Washington State (8-11, 1-5 Pac-12) — who has star player Robert Franks back — on Sunday. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.
“We say family for a reason… I was telling them that this kind of loss, it truly sucks,” White said. “I was making sure he (Pritchard) didn’t feel like this loss was on his shoulders — we need to come together, that’s what family is.”