Oregon makes epic comeback over No. 16 Colorado

Down as much as 14 in the first half after allowing 20 straight points, the Oregon men’s basketball team fought all the way back to win Friday night, 68-60, over Colorado before 9,275 fans in Matthew Knight Arena.

The dramatic comeback got the No. 17 Ducks back into a first-place tie atop the Pac-12 Conference with the No. 16 Buffaloes. It was the fifth time this season that the UO men’s basketball team rallied to win after trailing a game by double digits.

“It didn’t look good there for a while,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “But the guys continued to grind it out and find a way.”

How It Happened: A 20-0 run midway through the first half put the Ducks (19-6, 8-4 Pac-12) in a 30-16 hole, though they fought back within 35-26 by halftime. A three-pointer by Will Richardson followed by two C.J. Walker free throws got Oregon within 43-40 early in the second half, but Colorado answered with consecutive threes to put the Ducks back in a nine-point hole.

That proved to be the biggest turning point in the game. Coming out of a timeout, Payton Pritchard had a shot blocked and the ball ended up in the hands of Anthony Mathis with scant time left on the shot clock; Mathis heaved up a three just before the buzzer that banked in off the glass, bringing the crowd alive.

“From there on out,” Richardson said, “we knew it was a ballgame.”

Colorado went up 51-43 on two free throws, but at the other end Addison Patterson finished at the rim and was fouled. He missed the and-one attempt, but Richardson rebounded the miss and put it back for a four-point possession that got the Ducks within four. After a miss by the Buffs, Richardson finished in transition and it was a two-point game.

The lead was still two with 6:12 left, when Colorado got a three-point play to go up five at 58-53. But the Buffs would score just once more thanks to a smothering Oregon defense that contributed 12 steals.

“Stuff like that just gets you going as a player and as a team,” Richardson said. “The crowd loves when you hustle. The crowd was amazing, one of the best of the year; definitely gotta thank the crowd. But the small plays builds your confidence and gets you in the flow of the game, and then the offense will come. Coaches preach that every day.”

Pritchard hit a three to make it a two-point game again, and then Richardson tied it at the free-throw line. Colorado committed its third shot-clock violation of the second half to set up Richardson for a go-ahead three, and on the next possession Richardson had an offensive board and then fed Patterson for a dunk. Patterson contributed at the other end as well with a steal, setting up Pritchard for a layup that capped a 12-0 run by the Ducks.

“When coach put me in late in the game, I was just trying to bring energy, do what I can,” said Patterson, who finished with six points that he said “feels like 30” given his all-around contribution to the comeback.

Oregon’s defensive pressure was significant all night — when the Ducks had a chance to set up their press. Early in the game they were getting shots to fall, allowing them to set up the press and confound Colorado. Oregon’s biggest lead of the first-half was six, on a Mathis three-pointer that followed a turnover by the Buffs. That made it 16-10, but the Ducks missed their next 11 shots; that denied them a chance to press, and Colorado took advantage by scoring 20 points in a row to go up 30-16.

“We ran into that great stretch there in the first half; we couldn’t get the press set, couldn’t get anything going,” Altman said. “Missed a lot of shots inside; just didn’t finish. Got some steals and couldn’t finish. The second half, we really got it turned around.”