Down 18 early in the second half, Oregon staged a massive comeback to take a late lead but, in the end, couldn’t hold on, suffering a 77-72 loss to rival Oregon State in 351st meeting of the Civil War.
“The second half, we were just playing with our back against the wall, so we knew we had to fight,” Oregon senior Paul White said. “We fought till the very end… I’m proud of my team.”
Louis King led Oregon (9-5, 0-1 Pac-12) with 17 points and 10 rebounds, far and above the best performance of the season by the freshman. King, who just started playing a few weeks ago after suffering a knee injury last January, showed why he was a five-star prospect coming out of high school, using a mixture of athleticism and explosion to help ignite Oregon’s offense.
“I think Lou is going to be a good player for us,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “I really liked the 10 rebounds he got — I thought he took a big step.”
“Lou is real talented,” White said of King. “We relied on him for a lot of those possessions and he came through — even though we lost, this is something that he can build on and hopefully we can become a stronger team off of that.”
On the other side, Tres Tinkle was sensational for the Beavers. He finished with a game-high 28 points (4-of-8 from deep) and eight rebounds. The Thompson brothers, Ethan and Stephen, combined for 23 points and 10 assists.
Oregon State (9-4, 1-0 Pac-12) appeared to be in cruise control early in the second half after Ethan Thompson scored on a fast break dunk, giving the Beavers a 43-25 lead, their largest of the game.
After a pair of free throws by Tinkle gave Oregon State a 62-50 lead with 8:38 to go, Oregon found another gear and went on a 17-4 run over the next five minutes to take a 67-66 lead.
King got the run started with a jumper before White (15 points) knocked down a three-pointer. Victor Bailey Jr. knocked down a three-pointer before Oregon forced four Beavers turnovers, leading to seven quick points and the lead.
The teams would trade buckets and free throws over the next two and half minutes before Bailey’s two free throws gave the Ducks a 72-71 lead with 1:10 to play.
Oregon State responded with a pair of free throws to regain the lead, giving the Ducks another chance. Pritchard used a great crossover to get a good look, but his midrange jumper rattled in and out, forcing a foul.
After the Beavers extended the lead to three, 75-72, following a pair of free throws, Oregon had one last chance but King’s three-pointer hit front iron, ending the comeback.
“We wanted a little ‘pop’ action there, but they covered it pretty good… we didn’t’ want that stepback,” Altman said of the final possession. “We had plenty of time, he should’ve penetrated and looked for a quick or get all the way to the basket — he made a decision to take a step back that I didn’t agree with.”
Altogether, it was a much better second half once Oregon found its rhythm on both ends of the ball.
“I know our guys are fighters, that’s something that I’ve never questioned,” White said. “As a veteran, everybody on this team are fighters and I’m proud of that.”
The Ducks used a full court press that really confused Oregon State and led to transition offense that helped fuel the second half surge. Oregon forced 19 turnovers, scoring 21 points off them.
“It seems like we had some success with it,” White said of the press. “The press and a lot of pressure up front seems to be what works for us.”
To be fair, Oregon’s hopes of beating the Beavers took a huge hit a few days ago when it was announced that Bol Bol would not return for the rest of the season, instead choosing to rehab form his injury at home and prepare for the upcoming NBA draft.
With Bol missing, combined with the absence of Kenny Wooten Jr. (injury), Oregon was decimated down low in the first half, getting outrebounded 23-11 — leading to a 38-25 halftime deficit.
Pritchard finished the game with 14 points and six assists while Bailey added 11 points — the starters combined for 57 of the team’s 72 points total.
The Ducks now have three days of practice to get ready for UCLA on Thursday night. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. from Matthew Knight Arena.