The Oregon Ducks go into Thursday's in-state basketball rivalry game with Oregon State in prime position to finish the regular season strong yet again under head coach Dana Altman.
The 14th-ranked Ducks have a good shot at four straight wins to end the Pac-12 regular season and possibly win the conference's regular-season title. They play their final three games at home, with the Beavers, California and Stanford all coming to Eugene, Ore., before the Pac-12 tournament starts in Las Vegas next month. None of those teams is over .500 in the conference this season.
Oregon (21-7, 10-5 Pac-12) sits a half game out of first place, trailing surprising Arizona State and tied with No. 21 Colorado and unranked UCLA. Of those four teams, the Ducks are the only one undefeated at home (14-0) this season.
Led on the floor by senior guard Payton Pritchard, who is coming off his second conference player of the week award after scoring 38 points in a 73-72 overtime win at then-No. 24 Arizona on Saturday, Oregon has a score to settle with the Beavers. Oregon State handed the Ducks a 63-53 loss up the road in Corvallis, Ore., on Feb. 8.
The Ducks, aside from being 5-1 in overtime games this season, typically shine in the second half of conference play. Oregon has a 60-27 record during the second nine games of Pac-12 play since 2011. The last six years, Oregon is 31-7 after Valentine's Day in Pac-12 games.
"You want to grow as a team throughout the year, so we keep hammering on the same points," Altman said on the Oregon sports weekly basketball show. "We've got three tough games at home, and we're going to have to be ready to go in each and every one of them.
"We'd sure like to win the conference, get a part of it, at least," Altman added.
Oregon State (15-12, 5-10) is reeling after three straight losses, but it has beaten the Ducks three straight times in one of the country's longest-running college basketball rivalries. The Beavers will look to limit Pritchard, the Pac-12's leading scorer at 20.1 points per game.
"Obviously, he's going to be looking to score this game because he's coming off a really good game against Arizona, and he's playing super well," Beavers guard Zach Reichle told The Oregonian. "So we're really going to have to focus on him."
Oregon State senior Tres Tinkle, like Pritchard, will also be playing his final Civil War rivalry game against the Ducks. Tinkle is averaging 18.2 points per game to lead the Beavers.
The forward needs 20 points to pass Gary Payton and become the all-time leading scorer in Oregon State history, and he has already passed Mel Counts for the most free throws made (547) in program history.
Oregon State is 5-6 against Oregon under head coach Wayne Tinkle after the Beavers went 9-34 against the Ducks the previous 20 years.
--Field Level Media