LAS VEGAS — Oregon was the Pac-12’s preseason favorite, yet did not play like it through most of the season. The Ducks were inconsistent, lost their star freshman, had some ugly losses.
After four days of dominating defense, the Ducks are going dancing again.
Sparked by do-everything point guard Payton Pritchard, Oregon shut down Washington 68-48 Saturday night to become the second team to win four games in four days at the Pac-12 tournament.
“In my 39 years in coaching, I’ve never seen a team grow up that much that fast,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said.
The Ducks had some dark days during the regular season, notably a home loss to Texas Southern and an epic meltdown at home against UCLA. Freshman Bol Bol also went down with a season-ending foot injury, leaving Oregon without one of its best players.
Instead of playing as the favorites, the Ducks arrived in Las Vegas needing to win four games in four days to clinch an NCAA Tournament berth.
Sparked by a lineup change late in the regular season, Oregon was clearly the best team on the floor all four days in Sin City, returning the NCAA Tournament after missing the field of 68 last season.
The Ducks (23-12) capped it by holding Washington to the lowest point total in championship game history and join Colorado in 2012 as the only team to win four Pac-12 tournament games in four days.
“Everyone kind of came together at the right time,” said Oregon’s Louis King, who had 15 points.
Showing no signs of fatigue after three games in three days, the sixth-seeded Ducks clamped down on Washington in the second half turning a close game into a 16-point lead. Pritchard led the charge up top with four steals and Kenny Wooten did his damage on the back line, blocking four shots while changing several others.
“Game in game out, we just came prepared,” said Pritchard, named tournament MVP after finishing with 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the title game. “Fatigue never hit us.”
The top-seeded Huskies (26-8) looked like the tired team, struggling against Oregon’s defensive pressure.
Washington had a long scoring drought in the second half, shot 33 percent and went 5 for 23 from the 3-point arc. The Huskies had no double-figure scorers and could have some anxious moments on Selection Sunday.
“I thought we got decent shots. We got the ball where we wanted to get it and sometimes the ball just doesn’t fall,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said. “We tried to be aggressive and tried to get to the foul line. That didn’t happen.”
The Ducks flew into the title by winning the first three of four they needed to earn an automatic NCAA Tournament berth.