Foul trouble on the road buried Oregon before they even knew it, giving them their second conference loss of the season. It might only be three games, but the (14-4) Ducks are now 1-2 in enemy territory.
The first half was a little touch-and-go for No. 8 Oregon. Senior guard Payton Pritchard orchestrated an offense that struggled to sustain production. JUCO transfer Chris Duarte was largely Oregon’s only other means of scoring, recording 11 points in the first half.
Oregon did break out to an early lead with five straight points from forward Shakur Juiston to give them a six-point lead, but was fairly silent after that.
Their second largest lead of the night wasn’t nearly enough. Washington State University ended the first half hitting 8-of-12 from three-point range. The Ducks could do little to stop them from beyond the arch. Fortunately, a handful of turnovers and a 10-0 run capped off by a Duarte transition flush gave Oregon the lead heading into the second half. Duarte led both teams with five steals in probably his most active game on defense yet.
While it was a little more go in the first half than touch, Oregon’s offensive struggles on the road became much more evident in the second half. Pritchard primarily was the offense in the second half - if he couldn’t initiate it, then the Duck offense stalled. Ending his night with 22 points, Pritchard bailed out the offense on several occasions, including hitting a NBA range three after lack of creativity left the Ducks with a poor look from the wing.
Down just five despite undisciplined play on both ends of the court, an Anthony Mathis foul sent the Cougars into the bonus with 8:44 remaining. Oregon’s defense become even more timid, allowing WSU’s sophomore C.J. Elleby to take over. The forward from Seattle, Washington finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds, leading the Cougars on a 10-0 run to close out their first top 10 victory since 2007.
Oregon forced 16 turnovers throughout the game, but the 20 fouls eventually did them in. The offensive stumbles were evident with just 10 assists as a team all game. Duarte was the only Duck other than Pritchard to reach double-digits against WSU, finishing with 15 points, five rebounds, and five steals.
Even with the loss, the Ducks will get a chance to leave the state of Washington on a positive note. They head to Seattle to play the University of Washington led by freshman Isaiah Stewart who’s averaging 18.2 PPG. Tip-off against the Huskies is set for 12:45 p.m. PT, Saturday. Oregon will look to bring their conference record back to .500 before heading home for a two-game stand in Eugene.