Oregon faced a tough test Saturday morning against a Michigan team that’s off to a strong start. The game started off well for the Ducks, but wow did this game live up to the hype.
Oregon was minus Shakur Juiston, but that didn’t stop a fast start. It wouldn’t have been surprising for the Ducks to get off to a slow start. It’s something they’ve done this season, and this was a nine o’clock start time on the West coast.
The defense was dominant early, and after an Anthony Mathis three, Oregon was up 25-9 nearly 13 minutes into the game. However, the Wolverines didn’t fold. They were able to cut the lead to 31-23 at the half.
Then in the second half, craziness ensued. The game went back and forth. Michigan couldn’t miss. Payton Pritchard couldn’t miss for Oregon. Ultimately, Oregon had the last shot in regulation and after a crazy sequence, Mathis found himself with the ball and he drained a shot from about 30 feet out. However, the ball was clearly still in his hands when the clock ran out.
In overtime, things were also back and forth. Pritchard continued to dominate. However, he missed a free throw with a 71-68 lead that left the door open for Michigan. After a series of reviews and timeouts, Zavier Simpson had a driving layup to win the game, but he left it too high, Brandon Johns Jr. had a tip-in attempt that fell off, and Francis Okoro swatted the ball away to seal the win.
Oregon Wins a Crazy Game Over Michigan
Payton Pritchard Shows Why This Team Goes as He Goes
The senior point guard got off to a very slow start in this game and that carried itself through a good chunk of the second half. Despite his off game in the first half, Oregon found themselves with a big early lead and in a really good position.
However, in the second half things didn’t go as smooth. Pritchard was still struggling and the rest of the team was not picking up for him. Now part of that was Michigan getting hot. Specifically Isaiah Livers after a scoreless first half. But the offense was really struggling as well.
Even with him having an off day, Pritchard did what great players do. He found a way to get himself going. He got himself going so much that at one point he scored 15 out of 17 points for Oregon. Michigan coach Juwan Howard left Zavier Simpson on Pritchard, and it was a matchup that Pritchard took advantage of time and time again.
Overall this is a really strong Oregon team. They now have three wins over teams who were ranked in the top-15 at the time of playing them. This win also came without a starter in Juiston, and Oregon is still waiting on N’Faly Dante. If those things don’t show you how capable this team is, nothing will.
But when Pritchard is playing at a high-level, the ceiling for this team increases by a good amount. So much so that if he plays at this level all season Oregon has the potential to be a Final Four team.
Anthony Mathis Back to Form
How exciting would it have been if the game-winner from Mathis in regulation would’ve counted? Either way, Mathis being back to himself shooting the three was a welcome sight after he had really struggled the past few games after a start to the season that was clearly not sustainable.
In this one, he finished with 19 points and he was 6/10 from three. He got things going early and he was the key scorer in the fast start.
He did take a bit of a break from scorching the nets in the middle part of this one, but he was great early, and he hit a couple of shots late when Oregon really needed it. If it wasn’t Pritchard, it felt like it was Mathis in this one.
It was like watching these two in high school again. Of course, there’s more overall talent on this team than their high school teams at West Linn, but this game was largely the Pritchard and Mathis show.
This Teams Resume is Crazy
Oregon has now played five ranked teams this season. In those games, they are 3-2. So their only two losses on the season have come against ranked teams.
On top of that, they have solid wins over Houston, who was a co-favorite in the American Athletic Conference with Memphis, and UT Arlington, who was picked to finish second in the Sun Belt.
Now some of the shine has come off of Seton Hall, but they are dealing with some injuries and if they get healthy again, they will be a well-thought-of team come March.
This was the last real big game this team has before conference play starts, but in the early part of the season they have built one of the better resumes in college basketball, and they will be comfortably in the top-ten this week.
Oregon Beats Michigan: Overall Thoughts
This win was huge. Now that’s an obvious statement. Beating the fifth-ranked team in college basketball on the road is always going to be a big win.
However, the reason this was so big is that this Oregon team showed they can win a close, tight game in a hostile environment. That is a skill that is going to come in handy during March, and really throughout conference play, when teams seem to play you close no matter the talent gap or gap between how good a team is overall.
This team has learned a lot of really good lessons in the early part of this season that are going to come in handy. It’s one of the main reasons they feel ahead of schedule compared to a normal Dana Altman-coached team.
Also, Oregon just seems to know how to win one-point games against Michigan in basketball.
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