EUGENE, Ore.— There as a stretch during the first half in which the Colorado Buffaloes were putting on a clinic, doing the things that, at times, can make CU basketball special — moving the ball, knocking down open shots, and swarming the opposition on defense.
After halftime all of that disappeared, and it was Oregon that put on a show.
In a much-anticipated top-20 battle Thursday night at Oregon, it was the 17th-ranked Ducks that stole the spotlight, dominating down the stretch to defeat the 16th-ranked Buffs 68-60 at Matthew Knight Arena.
CU led by 14 points late in the first half and nine at halftime, but couldn’t sustain the momentum as a late 12-0 run by the Ducks made the difference. The victory allowed Oregon to earn a split of the season series with CU while pulling into a first-place tie with the Buffs atop the Pac-12 Conference standings.
“I thought our guys battled and fought, but we didn’t play very smart,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “We didn’t execute down the stretch like we need to execute. Oregon deserved to win this game. They were the aggressor in the second half. That was the disappointing part. I felt like we lost our aggressiveness.”
CU certainly was the aggressor in the first half, reeling off 20 consecutive points with scoring contributions from six different players to take a 14-point lead with just under four minutes remaining in the half. CU’s defense forced 11 consecutive missed shots out of the Ducks, and though Oregon trimmed that 14-point lead down to seven, a McKinley Wright-to-Evan Battey bucket gave the Buffs a 36-25 lead at halftime.
While the Buffs’ shooting touch slowly evaporated and the turnovers began piling up, Oregon gradually cut into the deficit throughout the second half, eventually tying the game at 58-58 on a pair of Will Richardson free throws with 4 minutes, 18 seconds remaining.
CU went scoreless for over four and a half minutes while Oregon put together its game-changing run late in the second half. After holding Oregon to a .323 shooting percentage in the first half, the Ducks shot .467 in the second half. A big factor in that turnaround for the Ducks was the play of sophomore guard Will Richardson, who scored 17 of his career-high-matching 21 points in the second half.
Richardson also grabbed a career-high nine rebounds.
“The first half, we carved it up and got great looks,” CU point guard McKinley Wright said. “For some reason in the second half, they made a couple shots and we let their crowd affect us. That was pretty much it. They made some big-time shots down the stretch. Will Richardson played out of his mind today, hit some big-time shots. He was great tonight. There’s nothing we can do about it now. Move on to the next one and learn from it.”
Three players scored in double figures for the Buffs, led by 14 apiece from D’Shawn Schwartz and Evan Battey, who also grabbed 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season and the fifth of his career.
After recording just eight turnovers in a win against Oregon at home on Jan. 2, the Buffs committed 18 on Thursday, the team’s highest total since they committed 21 at Colorado State on Dec. 13. It was a tough game for CU’s Tyler Bey, whose four points was enough for him to join the Buffs’ 1,000-point club, but he didn’t tally a single point after halftime.
“The physical toughness and competitive spirit of this team, unquestioned,” Boyle said. “The ability to make plays when plays need to be made and execute at crunch time of games, it wasn’t good enough tonight. That’s why Oregon won.”
What went right: The Buffs outrebounded Oregon 38-35 and made 10 3-pointers, two more than Oregon.
What went wrong: The Buffs committed a Pac-12-high 18 turnovers and shot just 30 percent (9-for-30) after halftime.
Star of the game: Evan Battey. The redshirt sophomore posted his fourth double-double of the season and the fifth of his career with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
What’s next: The Buffs will seek payback on Saturday against an Oregon State team that defeated CU in Boulder last month (8 p.m. MT, FS1).
OREGON 68, COLORADO 60
COLORADO (19-6, 8-4 Pac-12)
Battey 6-10 2-3 14, Gatling 4-14 0-0 11, Wright 3-10 1-2 8, Bey 2-6 0-0 4, Schwartz 5-8 1-1 14, Siewert 3-7 0-0 9, Parquet 0-3 0-0 0, Daniels 0-0 0-0 0, Walton 0-0 0-0 0, Kountz 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-59 4-6 60.
OREGON (19-6, 8-4)
Juiston 3-9 0-0 6, Lawson 1-2 1-1 3, Duarte 3-10 1-2 8, Pritchard 5-13 3-4 15, Richardson 7-15 4-4 21, Walker 0-3 3-4 3, Mathis 2-4 0-0 6, Patterson 3-4 0-1 6, Okoro 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-61 12-16 68.
Halftime – Colorado 35-26. 3-Point Goals – Colorado 10-29 (Schwartz 3-5, Siewert 3-7, Gatling 3-10, Wright 1-4, Kountz 0-1, Parquet 0-2), Oregon 8-24 (Richardson 3-5, Mathis 2-4, Pritchard 2-5, Duarte 1-6, Patterson 0-1, Walker 0-1, Juiston 0-2). Fouled Out – Duarte. Rebounds – Colorado 38 (Battey 11), Oregon 35 (Pritchard 11). Assists – Colorado 14 (Wright 5), Oregon 14 (Pritchard 6). Total Fouls – Colorado 15, Oregon 12.