LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With 4:42 left on the clock, Payton Pritchard saw the scoreboard as he walked into Oregon’s huddle for a timeout.
“We were right where we wanted to be,” Pritchard said. “Tie game with four minutes left. We just didn’t hit any shots at the end.”
The Ducks didn’t make another shot from the field the rest of the way as top-seeded Virginia pulled away for a 53-49 win over 12th-seeded Oregon Thursday night in an NCAA Tournament South Regional semifinal at KFC YUM! Center. The Cavaliers advanced to face Purdue in the Elite Eight, a spot where the Ducks felt they belonged.
“We are just as good as them, we showed that tonight,” Pritchard said.
Oregon’s 10-game winning streak that made them the surprise team on the second weekend of the tournament finally ended when Kihei Clark made a free throw with 0.5 seconds left on the clock.
“We battled in the second half, but just had some bad possessions offensively and that’s on me to help them out more than that,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “We put ourselves in position to win, but some bad turnovers and shots late in the clock, we didn’t have the possessions we needed. I feel bad that we didn’t get it done.”
Oregon (25-13) trailed by eight points at halftime, but scored the first five points after the break and went up 42-40 on a 3-pointer by Louis King with 8:28 left to play.
“That’s where the bad possessions started,” Altman noted.
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Oregon had two turnovers and missed a shot on its next three possessions while Ty Jerome hit a tying jumper for the Cavaliers. King put Oregon back ahead with a 3-pointer, but Clark matched him with a 3-pointer that tied the game at 45 with 5:16 left to play.
The Ducks committed consecutive turnovers, and Jerome made a 3-pointer to put Virginia up 48-45 with 3:30 remaining to play.
King drove to the rim and had a shot roll off before missing a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim.
“I expected those two to fall, but I should have trusted my teammates and got them the ball and penetrated and kicked for easy plays,” King said.
The margin stayed at three as Virginia missed four straight shots, but Pritchard and King each came up short on a 3-pointer that could have tied the game.
“We’ll live with those,” Pritchard said. “Just missed them, but we have been hitting those. One of those games when they didn’t fall for us.”
Clark missed a jumper with 46 seconds left, but Jerome grabbed the rebound and the Cavaliers ran the clock down to 27 seconds before De’Andre Hunter got a layup to push the lead to 50-45.
Pritchard made two free throws with 17.7 seconds before Hunter followed with two free throws. King missed a 3-pointer, but got the ball back after a rebound and made two free throws with 1.1 seconds left that got the Ducks within 52-49.
Virginia was able to get the ball in to Clark, who made a free throw to seal the win.
“It’s emotional,” UO freshman Francis Okoro said. “We fought our tails off and just came up short.”
King had 16 points to pace the Ducks, who shot 37.8 percent from the field. Oregon had 11 turnovers out of 54 possessions.
“When the pace is slow, you have to value every possession and we just had some we didn’t take seriously,” Oregon guard Will Richardson said.
Pritchard had 11 points and four assists while Paul White added 10 points for the Ducks.
Jerome had 13 points and six assists for Virginia (32-3), which shot a lower percentage than Oregon at 35.7. The Cavaliers had a 34-31 rebounding edge and finished with eight turnovers.
“The key was only eight turnovers against them,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “We talked about rebounding and not giving them anything easy.”
Oregon took its largest lead at 16-10 before Clark hit a 3-pointer. Kenny Wooten followed with a dunk before the Cavaliers closed out the first half on a 17-4 run to take a 30-22 lead at the break.
“Give them credit, that is a great team, but we missed some shots and made some bad plays at the end,” Okoro said. “That’s when they hit those shots and we didn’t.”