CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon's hot shooting Sunday gave the Ducks a win over their rival, the win over their rival gave the UO men's basketball team a five-game winning streak to close out the regular season, and that winning streak gave the Ducks their second straight Pac-12 Conference championship.
The Ducks went 15-of-23 from three-point range Sunday in Gill Coliseum to beat Oregon State, 80-67, avenging a loss to the Beavers earlier in the season. Four days after beating UCLA with first place in the conference on the line, the UO men clinched the Pac-12 title by beating OSU to finish percentage points ahead of USC in the standings.
Oregon (19-5, 14-4) will be the top seed in the Pac-12 Tournament at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas later this week. The Ducks won the conference regular-season title for the fourth time in six years, but did so in this most unique of seasons, in which they endured two different program-wide pauses due to COVID-19 protocols in January.
"It feels really good," UO coach Dana Altman said. "There was a lot of excitement in the locker room. The guys have been through a lot, but they really came together."
The Ducks' two protocol pauses were sandwiched around a loss to Oregon State in Eugene on Jan. 23. Will Richardson, LJ Figueroa and Pac-12 player of the year candidate Chris Duarte, who combined for 42 points Sunday, all missed that game, and the Beavers took advantage.
"I remember them laughing; I told them that before (this) game," said UO senior Eugene Omoruyi, who scored 18 points Sunday. "I had a chip on my shoulder, and I wanted to go at them even tougher. I'm just proud of the guys."
How It Happened: The Ducks led for all but the first 14 seconds of the game, taking the lead for good when Richardson scored on the opening possession. Figueroa scored off a turnover on the next trip, and two possessions later Richardson hit the first of Oregon's 15 three-pointers for a 7-1 lead. Duarte's first field goal was a three-pointer for a 14-7 lead, and he scored again on the next trip; that made it 16-8, with all of Oregon's scoring to that point from players who didn't play in the January loss to the Beavers.
A three-pointer by Richardson, a drive to the hoop by Figueroa and a layup by Amauri Hardy expanded the UO lead to 26-10. The Ducks then went 3:51 between field goals, during which OSU put together a 12-1 run to close the gap. But Eric Williams Jr. hit a three-pointer, ending the OSU run and sparking a 12-2 run for the Ducks that included two three-pointers by Richardson and another by Williams. Richardson hit yet another three for a 42-26 lead, and when Oregon headed into halftime up 44-31, Richardson already had 17 points on 5-of-5 three-point shooting.
"Once he's got a feel now, he's gotten aggressive," Altman said of Richardson, who missed the first half of the season following thumb surgery. "We were running a set at one point, and he just pulled back and shot it. I like seeing him aggressive, and when a guy gets on a roll like that you just let him go."
Omoruyi was scoreless at halftime after playing just five minutes due to two early fouls. He got to work making up for lost time coming out of the break, scoring on Oregon's first two possessions. Richardson hit his sixth straight three-point attempt for a 54-41 lead, and Omoruyi followed with a three-pointer on the next UO possession. OSU briefly cut the lead to single digits before Williams hit a three for a 57-46 lead, and it was a similar story when the Beavers got within 61-52 only to see Duarte hit a three on the next possession.
"We're dangerous," Omoruyi said. "We have a lot of scorers, on the court and off the bench. Like we say: Sometimes you, sometimes me, always us."
Who Stood Out: Richardson finished 7-of-12 from the field, including 6-of-7 from three-point range. Omoruyi scored his 18 second-half points on 5-of-6 shooting, making all three of his three-point attempts in the half. Williams had six rebounds and five assists to go along with his 14 points, and Duarte had six assists and three rebounds along with 10 points.
Duarte finished the regular season average 17.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, while leading the Ducks with 41 steals and dishing out 53 assists, second on the team. He's shooting 53.3 percent overall and 44 percent from three-point range, earning strong consideration for Pac-12 player of the year.
"Every coach has great feelings for his players, and I think Chris should win it," Altman said. "There's a lot of great players in the league, but I'm biased because I work with Chris every day and I know how much he means to our team."
What It Means: The conference tournament begins with first-round games Wednesday, and the Ducks will have a bye. They'll play midday Thursday against the winner of Wednesday's game between No. 8 seed Arizona State and No. 9 seed Washington State.
"This isn't the only goal we had; this is part of the journey," Omoruyi said. "We have our next goal now. Just keep cranking out goals, one at a time."
Notable: Oregon has now won the Pac-12 regular-season title under Altman in 2016, 2017, 2020 and 2021. … The Ducks went 8-1 in the second half of the conference season, and improved to 71-28 in the second half since 2010-11, the best record in the Pac-12. … Oregon improved to 14-0 this season when holding the opponent under 70 points. … The Ducks were picked to finish third by media covering the Pac-12 in the preseason, behind UCLA and ASU.
Up Next: The Ducks will play their Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal Thursday (11:30 a.m., Pac-12 Network).