Payton Pritchard, Kenny Wooten Lead No. 12 Oregon to Upset over No. 5 Wisconsin

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2019

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 22:  Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks takes a shot against Kobe King #23 of the Wisconsin Badgers in the first half during the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at SAP Center on March 22, 2019 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Oregon Ducks are one win away from their third Sweet 16 appearance in four years.

The South Region's No. 12 seed in the 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament defeated the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers 72-54 in a first-round game Friday in San Jose, California. Oregon handed the Big Ten its first loss in seven games in this year's Big Dance.

Payton Pritchard controlled play from the backcourt and finished with 19 points, nine assists, five rebounds and two steals, while Louis King (17 points) and Paul White (14 points) provided support. Kenny Wooten added nine points, six rebounds and four blocks as a stout rim protector who helped anchor Oregon's strong defensive effort.

Ethan Happ (12 points and eight rebounds) and Khalil Iverson (12 points and five boards) spearheaded the losing effort for the Badgers.

Oregon has embraced its slow, defensive-oriented style and is still dancing as a result.

It forced 13 turnovers and hounded the perimeter shooters, holding the Badgers to a mere 33.3 percent shooting from the field and 20 percent on three-pointers. It was more of the same for a Ducks squad that wouldn't have even made the NCAA tournament if it didn't catch fire with its defensive intensity.

Oregon won its final four regular-season games, including victories over fellow tournament teams Washington and Arizona State, and then won four straight at the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas. It destroyed the Huskies by 20 points in the championship game thanks largely to the same brilliance Pritchard displayed against Wisconsin.

He is the heart and soul of the Ducks, picking up ball-handlers and closing down in the full-court press. He sets the tone for a defense that is 17th in the country in KenPom.com's pace-adjusted rankings and overcame a similar offense in the Badgers.

Wisconsin is 332nd in the KenPom's tempo rankings, while Oregon is 328th. Seizing an early lead figured to be important with both teams minimizing possessions and providing fewer opportunities to close the gap and establish an offensive rhythm.

Pritchard took that to heart, slicing through the defense and either finishing himself or facilitating when Wisconsin's defense collapsed on his penetration. Whenever the Badgers doubled him, he connected with Wooten and others on lobs for easy finishes at the rim.

Even with the Oregon point guard playing well, Friday's game was the expected rock fight for extended stretches, with players diving for loose balls, Wisconsin's Brad Davison drawing charges and the teams combining to shoot 20 percent from deep in the first half.

It was tied at halftime, but the Ducks displayed its athleticism in the second half with multiple dunks and blocks from Wooten, who battled through a shoulder injury to soar over the Badgers and swat shots into the crowd.

That, combined with Pritchard maintaining control after reading the defense, pulling plays out and keeping the team calm in pressure-packed moments, was enough for the Ducks to prevail and set up a matchup with a potential Cinderella candidate.

            

What's Next?

Oregon will face the No. 13-seeded UC Irvine Anteaters in the round of 32 on Sunday.

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