In some ways, it still was. But more than anything, Washington’s 80-76 victory over struggling Oregon on Thursday night felt like a game the Huskies had to win if they were to maintain hope of making a run at the postseason.
Before a crowd of 6,748 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, UW prolonged Oregon’s losing streak and snapped a two-game skid of its own, using 23 points from senior guard C.J. Wilcox — including a dagger 3-pointer with 43.3 seconds to play — to improve to 4-3 in Pacific-12 Conference play.
The Ducks, meanwhile, have lost five consecutive games after winning their first 13 and earning a top-10 national ranking. Defense was not their strength; UW shot 57.8 percent from the field, including a 69.6 percent clip in the second half.
Still, this one was tight throughout, as Wilcox and senior forward Perris Blackwell each followed quiet first halves with team-carrying efforts down the stretch. Blackwell played his best while in foul trouble. The 6-foot-9 senior picked up his third foul early in the second half, then rattled off eight points in four minutes to put UW ahead 44-40.
The struggle to build upon or maintain that margin was ever-lasting. Oregon pulled ahead, 47-44. But Blackwell dropped in an old-fashioned 3-point play, Wilcox found Darin Johnson for a 3-pointer, then Wilcox answered an Oregon basket by making a 3-pointer of his own to put the Huskies ahead, 53-49.
The Ducks, of course, countered with a 3-pointer before Johnson responded by scoring a putback layup while being fouled, putting the Huskies ahead 55-52 with 10:14 to play.
It went on like that, neither team seizing enough control to call it. UW pulled ahead by six points before UO sliced that lead to four, and then three, and then two.
The Huskies kept finding Wilcox and feeding Blackwell, who finished with 15 points. The Ducks kept crashing the offensive glass, finishing with a 32-25 rebounding margin.
But it was UW who made more plays, including Andrew Andrews’ free throws that padded UW’s lead to 70-63 with 2:59 to go, or Wilcox’s step-through jumper that put UW ahead 73-69 with 1:25 left.
Of course, there was an Oregon answer for that, too, as guard Jonathan Loyd bodied his way past Williams-Goss — might have gotten away with a push-off — scored, was fouled, then made the ensuing free throw to cut UW’s lead to one point.
But Wilcox’s final 3-pointer, a straight-away look from at least a step beyond the arc, was too much for Oregon to withstand.
The first half was played at a fast pace, though not necessarily a quality one. Both teams forced sloppy turnovers — Oregon gave it away nine times, UW six — and missed shots they should have made.
Oregon led by two points at halftime, thanks to a 19-10 rebounding advantage, with eight of those boards coming on the offensive end. Those led to seven second-chance points.
Washington shot 32 free throws and made 21. Oregon shot 18-of-19. Andrews, who made eight of his 10 free-throw attempts, added 17 points for the Huskies.
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