This would have been considered a pretty big upset a few weeks ago.
In some ways, it still was. But more than anything, Washington’s 80-76 victory over struggling Oregon on Thursday night felt like a game the Huskies had to win if they were to maintain hope of making a run at the postseason.
Before an announced crowd of 6,748 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, UW prolonged Oregon’s losing streak and snapped a two-game skid of its own, using 23 points from senior guard C.J. Wilcox including a dagger 3-pointer with 43.3 seconds left to improve to 4-3 in Pac-12 play.
The Ducks (13-5, 1-5 Pac-12), meanwhile, have lost five consecutive games after winning their first 13 and earning a top-10 national ranking. Defense was not their strength; UW shot 57.8 percent from the field, including a 69.6 percent clip in the second half.
And then there was that last 3-pointer by Wilcox, which might be the signature shot of his season so far. It was a deep launch, well over the head of 5-foot-8 Oregon guard Johnathan Loyd, and it touched only net.
“I thought I was going to get the lob,” Wilcox said of the play design afterward. “That was the first option on that play. They did a good job guarding that. When I got the ball up top, his hands were
down, and I was able to get a good look at the rim.”
Said UW coach Lorenzo Romar: “He shot it probably a longer distance than he would have liked, but man, he zeroed in on it and knocked it down.”
Still, this one was tight throughout, as Wilcox and forward Perris Blackwell each followed quiet first halves with team-carrying efforts down the stretch. Blackwell played his best while in foul trouble. The 6-foot-9 senior picked up his third foul early in the second half, then rattled off eight points in four minutes to put UW ahead, 44-40.
The struggle to build upon or maintain that margin was everlasting. Oregon pulled ahead, 47-44. But Blackwell dropped in an old-fashioned 3-point play, Wilcox found Darin Johnson for a 3-pointer, then Wilcox answered an Oregon basket by making a 3-pointer of his own to put the Huskies ahead, 53-49.
The Ducks, of course, countered with a 3-pointer before Johnson responded by scoring a putback layup while being fouled, putting the Huskies ahead, 55-52, with 10:14 to play.
It went on like that, neither team seizing enough control to call it. UW pulled ahead by six points before Oregon sliced that lead to four, and then three, and then two.
The Huskies (12-8, 4-3) kept finding Wilcox and feeding Blackwell, who finished with 15 points. The Ducks kept crashing the offensive glass, finishing with a 32-25 rebounding margin.
But it was UW that made more plays, including Andrew Andrews’ free throws that padded the Huskies’ lead to 70-63 with 2:59 to go, or Wilcox’s step-through jumper that put UW ahead, 73-69, with 1:25 remaining.
Of course, there was an Oregon answer for that, too, as Loyd bodied his way past UW’s Nigel Williams-Goss, scored, was fouled, then made the ensuing free throw to cut UW’s lead to one point.
But Wilcox’s final 3-pointer, a straightaway look from at least a step beyond the arc, was too much for Oregon to withstand.
“That shot killed them, I think,” Andrews said. “Just from when he made, everyone on their team put their head down, from the bench to bringing it up the court. Just changed the momentum.”
The Ducks led by two points at halftime, thanks to a 19-10 rebounding advantage, with eight of those boards coming on the offensive end. Those led to seven second-chance points. Oregon grabbed only four offensive rebounds after halftime.
Washington shot 32 free throws and made 21. Oregon shot 18-for-19. Andrews, who made eight of his 10 free-throw attempts, added 17 points for the Huskies.
“We knew this was an important weekend for us,” Wilcox said. “We knew they had dropped four, so they were going to come hungry. But we had dropped two as well, so we needed to battle, and we did a good job doing that in the second half.”
washington 80, oregon 76
Player of the game: C.J. Wilcox was at his best Thursday night, making 7 of 11 shots from the field and 5 of 6 from 3-point range en route to a game-high 23 points. He took only four shots in the first half but came alive down the stretch when the Huskies needed their best player to carry them to victory.
It was over when: Wilcox eyed a long 3-pointer from the top of the key, rose over Oregon guard Johnathan Loyd and sank the basket to put UW ahead, 76-72, with 43.3 seconds left.
Stat of the game: Washington made 69.6 percent of its second-half field-goal attempts, which allowed the Huskies to finish the game with a shooting percentage of 57.8. That’s high.
Quotable: “Those are the things that C.J., we expect him to do now at this point. He’s not only a fifth-year senior, he’s one of the best guards in America. And when you’re one of those guys, they make those type of plays at the end. He’s kind of been doing that lately.” – UW coach Lorenzo Romar
What it means: After losing two games in the Bay Area last week, the Huskies badly needed to beat the reeling Ducks to get back on track. A 4-3 Pac-12 record looks a lot better than 3-4, especially when it comes via a victory over a rival that had lost four consecutive games entering Thursday’s contest. UW needs to finish the job by beating Oregon State on Saturday before heading to Pullman next week for a game at last-place Washington State.
Next up: Oregon State at Washington, 2 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Network.christian.caple@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @ChristianCaple firstname.lastname@example.org