With just over five minutes remaining, Oregon’s Louis King rose and drilled a three-pointer, his third in the last five minutes. It capped an 11-2 run and gave the Ducks a 45-42 lead over No. 1 Virginia in the Sweet-16.
But that was it for Oregon, as the Ducks went cold the rest of the game before suffering a 53-49 defeat to Virginia. The loss denied Oregon (25-13) its third Elite Eight trip in four years and ended its 10-game winning streak and season.
“We're disappointed, we were right there, down to the wire,” Oregon’s Payton Pritchard said. “We're going to look back at this and we're going to be — it's going to be frustrating for a while now.”
The game was defensive masterpiece with each team being able to impose their will on one another.
Virginia’s ability to hedge screens and use help-side defense prevented the Ducks from getting into the lane, a staple of their offense during the winning streak. Instead, Oregon was forced to launch three-pointers at a high rate, most of which were contested and did not come easy.
“We had a couple sets that we just didn't execute. But we should have been in a better position than that, and we should have got better shots,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “I don't want to take anything away from Virginia (32-3), they make a lot of people take bad shots. But we didn't handle that very well.”
The Ducks finished 9-of-25 (36-percent) from beyond the arc, 5-of-15 in the second half alone — 17-of-45 (37.8-percent) for the game.
King led the way with a game-high 16 points, knocking down 4-of-8 from beyond the arc — but he missed his final three three-pointers that all gave the Ducks a chance late. Pritchard added 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists but shot 3-of-12 from the floor and 1-of-6 from deep.
Likewise, Oregon’s length on defense really bothered the Cavaliers. Nothing came easy for them as the Ducks consistently contested shots and had their hands in passing lanes, forcing Virginia to start its offense farther than expected.
“We respected them. And in order to play against them, we would have to come out right,” Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite said of Oregon. “They were able to battle with us, back and forth.”
The game came right down to the end following King’s three-pointer that gave Oregon a 45-42 lead with just over five to play. Little known Kihei Clark responded on the next possession for Virginia, drilling a contested three-pointer that tied it up with 5:21 to go.
There would only be one made bucket over the next five minutes, but it was a big one. Virginia’s Ty Jerome, coming off a screen, drilled a deep three-pointer as Oregon’s Ehab Amin got caught up with the screen, making the score 48-45 with 3:33 to go.
“We started doing a better job of moving. Kihei (Clark) found me in the right spot, and I think Dre (Hunter) or Mamadi (Diakite) set a great screen,” Jerome said of his shot. “I think they did a great job of finding me in the right spot."
The Ducks would have multiple chances to tie the game or take the lead, but Pritchard and king combined to go 0-for-5 the rest of the way, with King taking four of the shots.
His runner in the lane and three-pointer on the wing both appeared to go in before popping out. But it was his three-point attempt in transition with 1:14 remaining that raised the most eyebrows. While the shot appeared rushed, there’s no doubt King was hit on his forearm, causing the ball to come up a foot short.
Oregon still had a chance late, using its trap defense to force a turnover but a miscommunication gave De’Andre Hunter a wide-open layup with 27 seconds left that made it 50-45, all but ending the game.
Clark was sensational for the Cavaliers, finishing with 12 points and a team-high six assists while adding four rebounds. Jerome added a team-high 13 rebounds while Diakite finished with seven points and 11 rebounds.
With the offseason now here, multiple Oregon players will have decisions to make regarding their futures. While it’s pretty assured that Bol Bol will enter the NBA draft, King, Pritchard and Kenny Wooten all have to decide if they want to return to the Ducks or enter the draft.