EUGENE, Ore. — Will Richardson decided it was his time to take over, and it couldn’t have worked out better for Oregon.
Richardson scored seven of the Ducks’ eight points in overtime to finish with a career-high 21 points as the No. 9 Ducks held off Arizona 74-73 Thursday night.
“I’ve been playing clutch games for a long time,” the sophomore guard said. “I actualy like it better when it’s close because it’s do or die and you can’t miss.”
Richardson’s final two points came after Arizona took a 73-72 lead with 21 seconds left on Josh Green’s layup. Without hesitation, the Ducks inbounded the basketball and raced into front court, with Richardson going to the basket without hesitation and scoring the winning points with 15 seconds remaining.
No hesitation, no thought of working for the final shot of the game?
“I knew the best chance we had was get it out of the net and go,” Richardson said. “They’re a young team so they’re not used to getting back without celebrating.
“I just knew it was now or never.”
Arizona had a final possession, but Richardson blocked a shot inside, another Arizona attempt misfired and even after the Wildcats rebounded both of those misses, a turnover on an inbounds play with one second left ended the final bid by Arizona.
“You just try and grind it out and find a way to win,” UO coach Dana Altman said of the final sequence. “We did make a lot of mistakes but to (the Ducks) credit, they did stay with it and kept battling.”
Oregon (13-3, 2-1 in the Pac-12) scored the final six points of regulation to force Arizona (11-4, 1-1) into the extra session, with Payton Pritchard’s jumper knotting the game with 28 seconds remaining.
Pritchard, playing all 45 minutes, finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists while Chris Duarte added 17 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Nico Mannion led Arizona with 20 points and Green added 18. Zeke NNaji had 11 points and 14 rebounds but missed a last-second jumper that could have won the game in regulation.
The Wildcats scored first in overtime but Richardson tallied the next five points for Oregon before Mannion hit a 3-pointer to knot the game at 71-71 with 1:37 remaining.
Pritchard made the first of two free throws with 48 seconds left before the team’s traded baskets to set up the final sequence.
“There’s no shame in the way we played it’s just, obviously, you know, the objective is to win and we didn’t,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
Arizona scored the game’s first seven points and with the Ducks missing eight of their first nine shots from the field had control early. Behind Mannion’s 10 points, the Wildcats built their lead to 29-18 before N’Faly Dante, who added 10 points and five rebounds for the Ducks, scored inside on three consecutive possessions to bring the Ducks back within 32-26.
The Wildcats led at halftime, but only 36-34 and Oregon took its first lead of the game in the first minute of the second half when Francis Okoro jammed in two points to finish a fast break. The Wildcats answered with the next seven points for a 43-38 advantage but Oregon responded with the next eight points for a 46-43 lead.
Back and forth it went from there. Arizona edged its lead to five points but Oregon scored the next eight, including 3-pointers by Pritchard and Duarte for a 60-57 lead as the Wildcats took a timeout with 5:26 remaining. That prompted their 9-0 run for a 66-60 lead that was wiped out by Oregon in the final two minutes.
“It was a great game. I thought our guys played their hearts out, played with a lot of effort and defensively for just about the entire game,” Miller said. “There’s six to eight plays … loose balls. a 50-50 ball, a defensive rebound, an offensive rebound where the balls, kind of traveled through our hands.
“I thought Oregon got more of those plays, made more of those plays and in a game like the one we just played in that really, in many ways, can decide it.”
Arizona: It was a fourth straight loss to Oregon, the longest winning streak the Ducks have had in the 84-game series.
Oregon: The Ducks are 9-0 at home this season, but this was only the second time the outcome has been decided by single digits.
Oregon freshman C.J. Walker missed his second consecutive game with an ailing back. Prior to his injury, the 6-8 Walker had started the previous six games and was averaging 5.7 points and 3.1 rebounds.
CALL ON THE RESERVES
Oregon had a 32-14 advantage in points scored by substitutes, with Richardson and Dante combining for 31 of those.
Arizona plays at Oregon State on Sunday.
Oregon will be at home again on Saturday against Arizona State.