Entering the series with the Bay Area schools, Oregon found itself in desperate need of a weekend sweep. After splits in all series’ thus far, the Ducks found themselves at 4-5 and three games out of a top-4 seed.
Oregon did its job last Wednesday after beating Cal — but Saturday’s showdown on ESPN2 with Stanford still loomed.
Led by Payton Pritchard’s offense and Kenny Wooten’s defense, the Ducks defeated Stanford 69-46 for the important victory. With the win, Oregon is 15-9 on the season and 6-5 in Pac-12 play, in a tie for fifth place and one game out of second.
"This game was big, especially for spots in the Pac-12," Oregon’s Victory Bailey Jr. (11 points off the bench) said. "We really needed this win to get into that top level of the Pac right now."
Wooten was particularly impressive in the first half, finishing with just four points but adding five rebounds and five blocks. He also altered many of Stanford’s shots in the paint, serving as the primary reason the Cardinal had just seven points with less than five minutes to play in the opening half.
“I feel like it definitely changed what they wanted to do," Wooten said. "I know they wanted to penetrate. I feel like after a couple of blocks, they started looking for another way to score.”
Ultimately, he finished the game with six points, six rebounds and a career-tying seven blocks but it was his mere presence that made the difference.
"Kenny set an unbelievable tone that first 10 minutes and really set the tone for the game," Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. "It made them a little hesitant offensively. He really was active and really in great position."
As good as Wooten was defensively, Pritchard was the offensive spark the Ducks needed. He posted his second consecutive 20-point performance, this time on an efficient 8-of-13 performance from the floor and 2-of-4 from deep.
Pritchard was special in the second half, consistently being the response whenever Stanford tried to cut into the lead. He scored 8 of Oregon’s first 10 points in the second half and 11 of its first 15. Each of his score came on the next possession following a Stanford bucket.
“He was really good tonight," Altman said. "I thought he was great on the straight-line drives getting to the rim and finishing tough shots. I thought he did a great job."
Neither team came out firing to begin the game as the Ducks led 10-2 just over 10 minutes into the game. The Cardinal really struggled from the floor with Wooten on the court, beginning just 1-for-22, but found a hot streak in the end by finishing 6-of-9 when Wooten picked up his second foul with 5:48 left in the half.
As Stanford started to score, freshman Francis Okoro played well in Wooten’s absence. While he’s not the athlete Wooten is defensively, Okoro scored five points and grabbed three offensive rebounds in the final four minutes to help give the Ducks a 30-20 lead at the break.
Pritchard’s hot streak helped Oregon expand its lead to 49-38 at the 12-minute mark before the Ducks used a 14-4 run over the next six minutes to put the game away for good.
Bailey Jr. got it started with a three-pointer (his second in as many possessions) before Pritchard and Louis King each added a pair of free throws and jumpers.
King played well in the final 10 minutes, scoring nine of Oregon’s final 17 points, finish with 16 in the game.
"We needed to get something done at home, we only have two home games left," Altman said. "We are going to find out how good of a team we have."
With starting point guard Daejon Davis (12.6 ppg) out with an injury, a lot of the scoring pressure fell onto KZ Okpala’s shoulders. Averaging 17.4 entering Sunday, the Ducks held him to 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting.
"We struggled making shots but also struggled understanding that taking the ball to the basket and trying to challenge them at the rim wasn't going to work unless we were going up to dunk it," Stanford head coach Jerod Haase said. "We didn't learn very quickly, and it really got us in a hole."
Oregon has a week off before facing rival Oregon State on Saturday in a battle for seeding purposes. The Ducks lost to the Beavers earlier in the season as their second-half comeback came up just short in both teams’ conference openers.
Tipoff is set 7:30 p.m. from Gill Coliseum in Corvallis and will air on the Pac-12 Network.