Payton Pritchard and Tres Tinkle ran into each other during the spring at a predraft workout with the Atlanta Hawks before both elected to return for their senior season in college.
Pritchard has emerged as the favorite for Pac-12 men's basketball player of the year while Tinkle would be in that discussion if he could dig Oregon State out of the bottom of the standings during the second half of the schedule. Both players are moving up their school’s all-time stat lists as rare four-year starters who spent their career at one college.
The 14th-ranked Ducks (18-5, 7-3) are tied for first place in the conference as they visit Oregon State (13-9, 3-7) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Beavers swept Oregon last year for the first time since Dana Altman arrived in Eugene and finished ahead of the Ducks in the standings. Oregon went on to win the Pac-12 Tournament before reaching the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament while the Beavers were left out of the postseason.
“Last year we beat them twice, so we feel confident,” OSU junior forward Alfred Hollins said.
Oregon State won 77-72 at Matthew Knight Arena and then defeated the Ducks 72-57 at Gill Coliseum just about two weeks before the Ducks went on a 10-game winning streak that ended with a loss to eventual NCAA champion Virginia.
“We were a whole different team by the end of last year,” Pritchard said.
Pritchard keyed Oregon’s late-season run last season and has continued to lead the Ducks through his senior season with 19.6 points, 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. The winningest player in school history recently became the UO’s all-time leader in assists and is closing in on being one of the top five scorers in school history.
“Pritchard is playing at such a high level,” OSU coach Wayne Tinkle said. “He’s always been a good player, but now the maturity of being a senior with all those games under his belt. He dominates games at times with his scoring and at times with his passing and at times with his defense. They certainly have a lot of pieces, but he’s a big part of what they are doing and having a big senior year.”
That last sentence could also describe Tinkle’s son, who should soon pass Gary Payton to become the leading scorer in school history. Tinkle is averaging 19.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
“He’s scored a lot of points for them for a long time,” Altman said. “He shoots the 3, drives it well, posts up and he’s got a nice mid-range game.”
Oregon State has beaten Colorado and Arizona, a pair of ranked teams that join Oregon in the top three of the conference standings. The Beavers have also lost to every team that joins it in the bottom half of the conference.
“They are a good team that has beaten some of the best teams in our league,” Pritchard said. “It is going to be a good atmosphere, a rivalry game, so we are going to try and go in there and get one.”
Oregon has dropped two straight at Gill Coliseum by double digits and three of four overall in the series that will be played for the 353rd time. Oregon will be without sophomore Francis Okoro, who is in Nigeria for his father's funeral, and freshman N'Faly Dante, who will miss a fifth straight game due to a knee injury.
“They will be ready for us, they always are,” Altman said. “Guys have to understand that it will be a very tough game for us.”