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Ducks Defeat No. 24 Wildcats in OT Thriller, 74-73

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Oregon Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Ducks’ second-half surge wills them to victory over Sean Miller’s 11-4 Arizona Wildcats.

Payton Pritchard and the Oregon Ducks got smacked in the mouth by Nico Mannion and the Wildcats right from the jump. Mannion dropped six straight points quieting the crowd at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon ascended back into the game, reaching within one on an Anthony Mathis three. But Arizona responded with an 11-3 run midway through the first half. Down nearly double-digits, the Ducks bench began to step up, namely sophomore guard Will Richardson. Accumulating 31 points off the bench, the secondary combination of Richardson and freshman big-man N’Faly Dante kept Oregon within arms reach to close the second half despite being out-scored 20-10 in the paint midway through.

Richardson put together one of his top performances of the season in the Ducks’ comeback victory. Very much at the forefront of Oregon’s efforts to claw their way back, the sophomore guard finished with a team-high 21 points. Oregon and Arizona traded nine lead changes. The Ducks took their largest lead of the night following a three by juco-transfer Chris Duarte moments after a Pritchard three, giving Oregon eight-straight points.

Mannion and the Wildcats answered with a 7-0 run of their own, quieting the once raucous crowd moments earlier. The Freshman guard led Arizona with 20 points and nearly delivered a grueling conference road victory.

With the second half dwindling down to its final seconds and Oregon’s offense sputtering, Pritchard put the game on his back and delivered like mid-season Wooden Award finalists do. The Pac-12’s leader in minutes, due to the fact that he never comes off the floor, was clutch once again, hitting the fade in Mannion’s face to send the game into overtime.

Including the spinning left-handed bucket for the game-winner with eight seconds left as seen above, Richardson made a crucial block on the defensive end to seal win. Going 7-of-16 from the field and 2-of-4 from three, Richardson was without a doubt Oregon’s best player against the Wildcats.

Despite his struggles from beyond the arch, Pritchard finished with 18 points and perhaps more importantly seven rebounds and six assists. His shot might not have been on from deep, but the clutch gene runs deep in his veins, putting it on display once again.

Duarte had a strong showing against Arizona, scoring 17 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting. The triple-threat of Richardson, Pritchard and Duarte totaled 120 minutes. Head coach Dana Altman leaned on his experienced guards. Maybe this is the start of Richardson’s coming-out party as they enter the meat grinder that is their conference schedule.

Oregon moves to 13-3 on the season and 2-1 through their first three conference matchups. The Wildcats showed toughness in an intimidating road environment. Don’t be surprised if the Ducks see them again come tournament time where Oregon will be defending their Pac-12 Conference Championship.