UW Forgets to Duck: Pritchard Throws a Knockout Punch

Dan Raley

Payton Pritchard took and made shots from 30 feet out. He launched balls near the Space Needle emblem on the floor. If his range was any longer, he would have been standing in Lake Washington. 

Yet when it mattered most, the savvy Oregon sharpshooter came in from the clouds and delivered a lightning bolt. 

With 3.4 seconds remaining in overtime, Pritchard drained a more routine 3-pointer  -- clutch, but closer -- to hand the Washington basketball team a demoralizing 64-61 defeat before a sellout crowd and CBS-TV cameras on Saturday afternoon at Alaska Airlines Arena.

"He's the head of the snake," Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said. "You've got to make sure he doesn't see the basketball."

Pritchard not only saw it, he knew what to do with it. He hissed, rattled his tail and finished with 22 points, pointing to the floor after hitting the game-winner, as if the gym belonged to him. And it did.

A hard-nosed guy with a crewcut, the guard led a furious second-half comeback for eighth-ranked Oregon (15-4 overall, 4-2 Pac-12) that erased a 16-point UW lead and ruined an otherwise game performance by the home team. 

While the Ducks senior made it clear he had to have the ball in his hands at the end, everyone on the other side except freshman sensation Isaiah Stewart turned tired or timid coming down the stretch.

Over the final 16 and a half minutes of play into overtime, Stewart scored 15 of the UW's final 18 points. His stat line (see boxscore) was as impressive as any he's put up this season: 25 points, a career-best 19 rebounds and 5 blocks. 

Yet Stewart had no help whatsoever on the offensive end over the latter part of the second half and throughout the extra session. Jamal Bey provided a layin. Naz Carter supplied a free throw. That was it.

"It's on me," freshman point guard Marcus Tsohonis said, shown in the video with Stewart. "I felt like I didn't get people in the right position. We were feeling chaotic."

Tsohonis actually played very well, scoring 12 of his career-high 14 points in the opening half, the only other UW player in double figures. His only shortcoming was missing all four of his free throws over the final six minutes of regulation play.

Pulled from his redshirt status the week before, the Portland product played 36 minutes against the Ducks after pulling 29 against Oregon State two days earlier as a replacement for the academically ineligible Quade Green. 

"I think Marcus has really solved the Quade issue," Hopkins said.

With former UW greats Brandon Roy and Jon Brockman in the crowd for the high-profile matchup, the Huskies (12-7, 2-4) did a lot of things well. They built a 12-point lead by halftime and stretched it to 44-28 with 13:50 left in regulation.

They got the ball in deep to Stewart, who played more determined than ever. He came in with a tomahawk dunk attempt early that electrified everyone in the gym though it didn't go down.

He also tactfully worked the officials, turning and calmly talking one ref into calling an infraction on an Oregon player who was hanging on tightly to his jersey at the time.

"I was telling (the ref) I basically can't use my strength," Stewart said. 

The Huskies felt so good about things, they put five scholarship freshmen on the floor together for the first time in the second half, teaming Stewart with Jaden McDaniels, Nate Roberts, RaeQuan Battle and Tsohonis, with only Roberts a redshirt freshman.

Oregon, however, pressed the Huskies and wore them down, gradually chipping away at the big lead. Pritchard tied the game at 54, for the first time since the opening minutes, with a long 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:09 left.

Tied at 56, the UW had a chance to regroup and win at the buzzer but Jamal Bey's jumper hit back iron.

The teams were tied at 59 in overtime when Pritchard dropped in a floater from inside the key at the 1:09 mark again.

After Stewart hit a pair of free throws to knot the game at 61, Pritchard had the ball at 22-23 feet, took a step back and let fly with a shot over the outstretched Bey that scorched through for the deciding points. 

A Battle 3-pointer at the buzzer fell way short, and the Huskies dropped their third game in which they let a 12- to 16-point lead get away, giveaways that previously involved Houston and Stanford. 

"We got tired, we got stale, we missed a couple of foul shots that would have closed it out," Hopkins said. "That might have been my mistake not getting more guys in the game."

Pritchard, who only got stronger and better as the game went along, made all of that a moot point.