EUGENE, Ore., - With losses in six of its last eight games, No. 23 Oregon was watching its chances for an NCAA tournament berth slipping.
One big win over ninth-ranked Washington State on Thursday night has the Ducks headed back in the right direction.
"This is a top-10 team. We had to show the committee we're a tournament team," said freshman Tajuan Porter, who scored 21 points in Oregon's 64-59 victory over the Cougars on Thursday night.
The Ducks (21-7, 9-7 Pac-10) had lost three straight games and six of their last eight. The victory marked the third time Oregon has defeated a top-10 team this season.
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Washington State (22-5, 11-4) had won five straight since a 77-74 overtime loss to Oregon in Pullman.
After trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half, Oregon went up 46-43 midway through the second on Bryce Taylor's 3-pointer.
WSU responded with a 9-0 run, and went ahead 52-46 on Daven Harmeling's 3-pointer. Oregon closed to 55-53 on Porter's 3-pointer, then went ahead on another Porter three with 3:36 left. Harmeling quickly put the Cougars back up with a dunk.
After Porter made a pair of free throws, Maarty Luenen's tip-in with under a minute left made it 60-57 for Oregon. After Taylor Rochestie scored for Washington State, Aaron Brooks' key layup put the Ducks up 62-59 with 12.9 seconds left.
Chamberlain Oguchi made a pair of free throws for Oregon for the final margin.
“It wouldn’t have been like that if Tajuan hadn’t stepped up and hit those big shots,” Brooks said of his key layup.
Porter made four of six 3-pointers, moving within four 3-pointers of tying the Pac-10 freshman record of 82 set by UCLA’s Jason Kapono in 2000.
Brooks finished with 16 points and six assists.
“We’re still in the tail end of this marathon. We need to keep grinding it,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said.Harmeling led Washington State with 15 points. Kyle Weaver had 14. The Ducks held Washington State’s top scorer, Derrick Low, to six points.
“We had a hard time handling Porter, obviously,” Washington State coach Tony Bennett said. “Not a whole lot you can do when he catches the ball out so far and shoots it ... He’s so deadly when he’s spotted up out there.”
The Ducks have won 13 straight against the Cougars, and 21 of the last 22. Washington State hasn’t won in Eugene since 1995.
Oregon jumped out to an 8-2 lead, but the Cougars responded with a 17-0 run that made it 19-8. Washington State led by as many as 14 points in the first half.
The Ducks narrowed it to 30-25 at halftime on Maarty Luenen’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.
After Kyle Weaver opened the second half with a 3-pointer for the Cougars, the Ducks went on an 8-0 run, capped by freshman Tajuan Porter’s 3-pointer, to tie it at 33.
The Ducks took a 40-38 lead on Joevan Catron’s layup with 15:02 left.
Oregon’s record is its best after 27 games since the “Tall Firs” team that won the NCAA Championship went 22-5 in 1938-39.
Oregon has defeated UCLA (1), Arizona (10) and Washington State (9) this season, making the Ducks the only team in the country that has defeated three top-10 teams.
“Our locker room is on fire down there and maybe this is the win we need to kind of energize us coming down the stretch,” Kent said.
Ducks 64, Cougars 59
Records: Oregon (21-7 overall, 9-7 Pac-10), WSU (22-5, 11-4)
Saturday: WSU at Oregon, 5 p.m.