Two days after Dana Altman cited free throws as the difference in Oregon’s overtime win against Arizona, the UO coach quickly returned to that topic while explaining how Arizona State stayed within striking distance of the Ducks.
No. 9 Oregon went nearly wire-to-wire for a 78-69 win over the Sun Devils on Saturday night in front of 9,213 at Matthew Knight Arena, but ASU hung around until the final minute thanks to a pile of missed free throws by the Ducks.
“If we hit some free throws, it’s a 15- or 16-point game and it looks different,” Altman said. “You can’t go 14-for-23 from the line. We got a lot of opportunities there and didn’t knock them down.”
Two nights earlier, Oregon went 15-for-17 from the line to defeat No. 24 Arizona 74-73.
“We’ve had some nights where we shot it OK and tonight we shot poorly,” Altman said. “We need to do a better job. That skews it because if you go 17- or 19-for-23, the game looks different.”
Altman also had issues with Oregon’s defense despite a stat sheet that showed ASU shot 39.0% from the field while being held nearly five points below its average.
“We’ve got to come in Monday and lock in defensively and be ready,” Oregon senior Shakur Juiston said.
Oregon (14-3, 3-1) finished off a sweep of the Arizona schools to join Stanford as the only Pac-12 teams with three wins during the first two weekends of conference play.
“This keeps our confidence going,” Oregon forward Francis Okoro said. “We go to Washington next week and we are trying to understand how to go out there and get a win. We really needed this one, two big wins.”
Payton Pritchard matched his career high with 29 points to go with six assists while Chris Duarte added 20 points. The two guards combined to make 10-of-17 3-pointers as Oregon shot 41.4% behind the arc.
Juiston added 11 points, nine rebounds and three assists as the Ducks won their third game in a row.
“Lot of good things, lot of bad,” Juiston said. “We need to learn from our mistakes.”
That continues to be the message coming from Oregon’s players echoing their coach.
“We got a long way to go,” Altman said. “We can’t run a lot of things defensively because of combinations, roles are not defined. Offensively, execution-wise we have a long way to go. We are going to be a work in progress for a long time.”
Okoro fouled out in 11 scoreless minutes with one rebound and two blocked shots. After averaging 5.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in nonconference play, the sophomore has a total of five points and nine rebounds in four Pac-12 games.
“I think it’s going to come,” Okoro said. “Right now, we are winning so I am not worried about me. I think it will come, I need to be patient. I think I need to be more aggressive, try to post up more, move and set screens.”
Arizona State (10-6, 1-2) took its last lead at 8-6 before Pritchard followed with a 3-pointer. The Sun Devils tied the game 24-24, but Duarte answered with five straight points and Anthony Mathis made a 3-pointer.
The Ducks led 40-31 at the half and Duarte opened the second half with a basket before Pritchard added a 3-pointer to give Oregon its largest lead.
Remy Martin scored seven straight ASU points to cut the lead to 53-48 before N’Faly Dante followed with a bucket for Oregon. Martin, who scored 29 points, got the Sun Devils within 72-67 before Will Richardson hit a free throw. Rob Edwards missed a 3-point attempt that could have made it a one-score game in the final 90 seconds and Pritchard followed with two free throws at the other end.
“This is good because last weekend we got a split and we see the things we could have done then that we did in these games,” Juiston said. “This is a confidence builder and reminder for the next games to stay positive and locked in and get the job done.”