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MBB: Ducks close out Cardinal, earn bye in Pac-12 Tournament

N’Faly Dante saves the day with his defense, and Oregon nabs the 4 seed

Syndication: The Register Guard Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

It was a more proper senior send-off this year for the Oregon Ducks, especially Will Richardson.

Though not always the most consistent player, Richardson deserved a better sendoff than last season, when he had no family or friends present for his senior day ceremony, and was fresh off a scoreless performance in which he’d missed a game-winning shot, been cut above his eye and, unbeknownst to the public, battling mono.

This time Richardson had loved ones all around and had recorded 10 points in a victory. He was one of three Ducks who scored in double figures in the 73-68 win over Stanford, but it was the defense of fellow senior N’Faly Dante that saved Oregon on Saturday afternoon.

After falling behind early, Oregon rallied to take the lead into halftime 39-34. For the majority of the second half, Oregon was in control but unable to put a significant enough separation from the Cardinal, who fought back to make it a one possession game in the final minutes.

With the Ducks coming up empty on the offensive end, it was Dante twice swatting away Stanford shot attempts that would have narrowed the gap even more, and Oregon finished an extremely up-and-down regular season with a three game winning streak after dropping three in a row before.

Dante led Oregon with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks. Keeshawn Barthelemy tallied 14 points and hit four 3-pointers.

Despite the inconsistencies Oregon has displayed this year, they earned a first-round bye for the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas this week and have a very legitimate chance to notch another 20-win season, something they have never failed to do under head coach Dana Altman.

Oregon’s path through the Pac-12 Tournament may end up with them getting a third and final shot at probable NCAA Tournament 1 seed UCLA, who the Ducks lost to twice this season, though both times in competitive games. Another possible matchup could be against the only other conference opponent Oregon did not beat in Washington. Aside from the Bruins and Huskies, Oregon has beaten every other team at least once, including blowouts of 2 and 3 seeds Arizona and USC.