EUGENE — Saturday’s Civil War game marks the last time Oregon has a week with just one game.
Payton Pritchard would prefer a busier schedule.
“I don’t like a one-game week,” the Oregon sophomore point guard said. “I’d rather play two, three, four, as many as possible.”
Pritchard has proven that by being on the court for 155 of 160 minutes during Oregon’s past four games, including three where he sat out just one minute.
“That’s what I train all offseason for,” he said. “I have been doing that my whole life. I’m ready for it.”
Pritchard has boosted his season averages with 18.5 points and 6.0 assists during those four games, which included two wins and two losses. He has four rebounds in each of those games and a total of seven steals for the Ducks (13-7, 3-4 Pac-12), who will host a rematch with Oregon State (11-8, 3-4) at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“He has made a difference,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “He has taken a lot of leadership, trying to get our defense more intact. Communication starts with him and he’s done a very good job. We have had other players step up, but Payton has taken on a leadership role and made us play better.”
Pritchard said Jordan Bell, Dylan Ennis and Dillon Brooks were among the most vocal Ducks on defense last year.
“Communication is a big thing, getting hands on the ball and rebounding and boxing out, stuff that wins games and wins championships,” he said. “I feel like I have to start the communication and get everyone talking.”
Pritchard has also improved his shooting percentages by making 24-of-46 shots from the field, including 12-of-27 three-pointers, during the past two weeks.
“He has been shooting it the way we knew he could since he shot it well in the summer,” Oregon senior forward MiKyle McIntosh said. “We always see him as a shooter and he is doing his job and hitting shots.”
Pritchard’s surge has come after he played 28 minutes in a 76-64 loss at Oregon State on Jan. 5 when he picked up two fouls in the first four minutes.
“That was a lesson, I can’t have stupid fouls like the second one I got,” Pritchard said.
As is usual in that case, Altman put Pritchard on the bench following his second early foul and he finished the game with nine points, missing 5-of-6 three-point attempts.
“Two fouls in the first few minutes hurts a lot of players,” Altman said. “You are so cautious after that. You don’t want to get a third foul in the first half if I put you back in there and you start the second half thinking you can’t get a third foul. It puts you on your heels, most guys struggle with that.”
Altman was disappointed with the Ducks’ effort in the loss to OSU and talked about it with Pritchard, Oregon’s only returning starter from last year.
“I am trying to keep everybody up and make sure everyone is focused and me too,” Pritchard said. “As a leader, I have to be the most focused and most energetic and be on point. Leadership is not one day, it’s every day, and that is what I have been trying to do.”
Pritchard has done that on and off the court.
“He’s showing us how Oregon basketball is,” McIntosh said. “He’s one of the vets, he’s showing us how coach likes things and what they did last year. Obviously, they went to the Final Four, so he knows what we need to do to accomplish things. He is telling us what to do and showing us as well.”
After scoring 7.4 points per game as a freshman, Pritchard leads the Ducks with 15.7 points per game to rank 13th in the Pac-12. He is sixth in the conference with 4.5 assists.
“He works so hard, it is not a surprise to those who see him every day,” Oregon freshman guard Victor Bailey said. “He puts in the time and it pays off.”