Oregon’s 71-70 overtime win over then-No. 5 Michigan last Saturday propelled the Ducks to a single-digit ranking, landing at them at No. 8 just in time for their home game against Montana on Wednesday night in Eugene, Ore.
Oregon (8-2) is arguably the best two-loss team in the country. No other team in the top 10 has two losses, and for the Ducks, the two defeats were to then-No. 6 Gonzaga (currently No. 2) and then-No. 8 North Carolina (currently unranked). Both were very close games and played back-to-back.
The win in Ann Arbor came against the highest-ranked opponent the Ducks have ever defeated in school history. The Ducks built a big lead before making plays late to fend off the Wolverines.
“I thought it was a real high-intensity game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman told the Oregon athletics website. “Guys fought it off and did just enough to win.”
Having loaded up their nonconference schedule with five top-15 opponents and gone 3-2 against them, the Ducks finish out December with three games against smaller schools, and up first are the Grizzlies of the Big Sky Conference.
Oregon has won two straight since losing the two games in the Bahamas, and one key to their success has been the 3-point shooting of Anthony Mathis. The transfer from New Mexico hit six 3s at Michigan and has nine in the past two games after going 1-for-12 in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
“Everybody goes through ups and downs,” he told The Oregonian. “I got more reps in, got in the gym, got my mind back right and kept shooting the ball like I know how.”
The Ducks are 6-0 when Mathis makes at least two 3s.
“He’s a threat anytime he steps on the court because he can shoot it,” said Payton Pritchard, Oregon’s leading scorer who had 23 points at Michigan. “(It) opens the floor up for us.”
The Grizzlies (4-5) are coming off a 77-70 win over North Dakota at home on Dec. 6, so Wednesday will be their first game in 12 days. Montana has won three of its last four games but has two previous losses to Pac-12 teams this season, Stanford and current No. 22 Washington.
Guard Sayeed Pridgett has scored 19 or more points in four straight games, including 20 against North Dakota. Senior Kendal Manuel also finished with 20 points.
“When we play hard and we focus on the details, more so on the offensive end, it tends to work out for us,” Montana coach Travis DeCuire said.
DeCuire said he feels his team is headed in the right direction.
Manuel felt the team learned a lesson from the win over North Dakota, which preceded a finals week break in the schedule. The Hawks tied the game at 38 early in the second half after trailing by seven at halftime.
“We’re not just going to be able to go out and beat everybody,” Manuel told The Missoulian newspaper website. “We’re going to have to go out and earn it every single night.”
–Field Level Media