Ducks Hold Off UW, Setting Up Showdown Saturday With WSU

EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon will host a battle for sole possession of second place in the Pac-12 on Saturday, after the Ducks held off a late comeback attempt by Washington to win 85-80 on Thursday before 7,584 fans in Matthew Knight Arena.

The win for the Ducks (16-7, 8-4 Pac-12) coupled with Washington State’s victory Thursday in Corvallis sets up a showdown between Oregon and the Cougars in Matthew Knight Arena on Saturday at 2 p.m. Both teams are currently 8-4 in conference play, one game behind first-place Arizona.

Oregon led by as many as 20 in the second half Thursday, at 66-46 with 10:25 to play. But UW turned up the pressure defensively, the Ducks made just one of their last 11 field-goal attempts and Washington snapped a stretch of 15 straight missed three-pointers by making three in the final five minutes to close all the way within one, at 75-74.

“We did what we had to do to win the game, which is really important,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “But I’ve been harping on our mistakes, which we’re making too late in the season. For Feb. 8, we should be able to handle the press a lot better than that.”

Jermaine Couisnard led the Ducks with 27 points Thursday, including four clutch free throws in the final 30 seconds. Kwame Evans Jr. and N’Faly Dante each scored 15, and Dante had a blocked shot, a steal and a contest of a three-pointer in the final two minutes to help Oregon hold off the Huskies.

“It was crunch time for us, and it just fell in our hands as two leaders to make a play,” Cousinard said while sitting alongside Dante for a postgame interview. “It’s something we needed down the stretch.”

How It Happened: The Ducks led 40-34 at halftime, having limited UW’s potent transition offense but shooting just above 40 percent. Oregon found its offensive efficiency to open the second half, making 8-of-14 field-goal attempts out of halftime — the last of those an and-one by Dante for a 66-46 lead.

​At that point, however, Washington upped its defensive pressure, and the Ducks turned it over three straight times. Dante ended that stretch with a bucket for a 68-52 lead, but Oregon would then miss nine straight field-goal attempts as UW closed the gap. It was 73-60 when the Huskies put together a 12-0 run, closing all the way back within a point of the Ducks.

Oregon, which played Thursday without Nate Bittle due to illness, missed 1-of-2 free throws on each of its next three trips. That made it 76-74, and Washington’s ensuing possession included a blocked shot by Dante and a steal by Couisnard. After the teams traded baskets, UW’s next possession resulted in a steal by Dante, and after he made one free throw he leapt out to contest a three-pointer that missed. Couisnard made two free throws at the other end for a five-point cushion with 19 seconds left.

“I’m proud of the guys for winning the game,” Altman said. “We found a way. But we can’t make that many mistakes.”

Washington’s run of 15 straight missed threes came after UW made its first of the game, on the way to an early 9-6 lead. The Ducks answered with a 9-0 run and led the rest of the night —though there were some harrowing moments along the way.

After UW ended a stretch of nearly four minutes without a field goal by scoring to get within 15-13, the Ducks ripped off another extended run, of seven in a row. Consecutive midrange jumpers by Jadrian Tracey made it 31-19, Oregon’s biggest lead of the first half. An 8-2 run by UW got the Huskies back within 33-29, and Oregon was up 40-34 at halftime.

Up Next: The Ducks host Washington State on Saturday (2 p.m., Pac-12 Network).