The showdown between Gonzaga and Oregon at the Battle 4 Atlantis really delivered; let’s look at how it went down.
Though it clearly was an inferior season, as most of the postseason was stolen away by the national pandemic, there were still a number of incredible games and moments last year. Among those early-season moments were the early season NCAA Basketball tournaments, with the Battle 4 Atlantis standing out recently. In our top 40 games of the 2019-20 season, we look closely at another game from that fascinating nonconference tournament.
17. #8 Gonzaga 73, #11 Oregon 72, OT (Battle 4 Atlantis)
November 28, 2019, Imperial Arena in Nassau, Bahamas
This past season’s Battle 4 Atlantis certainly shined as one of the great early season tournaments and lived up to that reputation. While the slew of ranked teams that headed to the Bahamas certainly bolstered the fields, it was the great games played there that really delivered, including this potent matchup of two of the best West Coast teams in the nation.
Oregon entered the semifinal in pretty good shape to start their season. They had beaten #13 Seton Hall the day before, already had great wins over #13 Memphis and Houston on their resume, and were getting some very solid play from Payton Pritchard and Shakur Juiston, among others. The toughest challenge awaited the Ducks, looking to extend their 6-0 start.
High expectations always seemed too great for Gonzaga, but once again they had a fantastic roster of talent. Sure, they lost plenty of talent, including Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, but the play of Killian Tillie, Corey Kispert, and more were already making up for it. They had taken care of Southern Miss with relative ease the day before and were seeking their eighth straight win to open the season.
Both teams started relatively slow on offense, but Kispert put up five quick points to give the Bulldogs the early advantage. A C. J. Walker 3-pointer helped stem the initial tide, but Gonzaga was already up double-digits just a few minutes into the game. In fact, Drew Timme’s shot with just over six minutes gone in the game gave Gonzaga a 21-5 lead as they looked to make this a laugher early.
While Gonzaga would soon extend that lead to 17 points, the Ducks offense did have something of an answer. While the defense didn’t have an answer yet for the Bulldogs, Oregon scored on four straight possessions to stay in the game. A big Pritchard 3-pointer pulled them to within 10 halfway through the first half. In the next few minutes, the defense locked down, allowing the Ducks to pull within a single possession, but Gonzaga maintained their lead.
By halftime, the Bulldogs held the lead by six, though Oregon clearly wasn’t fading away. A hot offensive and defensive start helped the Ducks get back into this thing, tying the game on a Francis Okoro shot just six minutes into the half. They had clawed all the way back into the game, but there was still plenty of time left.
A 3-pointer from Pritchard just before the under-12 media timeout gave Oregon their first lead, though Gonzaga would take it back a few minutes later on a pair of free throws from Ryan Woolridge. The two squads went back and forth with a long period of less than stellar offense, though it was still a very tight game.
A pair of 3-pointers from Kispert late helped Gonzaga build the lead up to five in the final minute, but Oregon wasn’t done yet. After another long-range shot from Pritchard, the Ducks forced a turnover and got a pair of free throws from Chris Duarte. Gonzaga missed their shot at the end of regulation, forcing this exciting matchup into overtime.
Oregon scored the first four points of the extra period, though they were soon answered by four points from Petrusev to tie things up. The two teams traded buckets and were still tied in the final minute. Both teams missed free throws down the stretch, though Timme made his second charity shot to give the Bulldogs a 1-point lead late. Oregon couldn’t convert on their final possession and Gonzaga hung onto an impressive, hard-fought win in Atlantis.
Gonzaga may have blown that early 17-point lead, but they got 22 points and 15 rebounds from Petrusev, needing all he gave in overtime and pulled out the fantastic win. The Ducks forced 13 turnovers, but Pritchard missed 16 shots; the team shot just 33% from the field. Oregon had chances to win this game, even after being in that huge hole right off the bat.
While the loss was disappointing and compounded the following day by a loss to North Carolina, Oregon still put together a pretty great season. They’d climb as high as #4 in the rankings and won the Pac-12 regular-season title. They were nearly guaranteed to be a top 4 seed had the NCAA Tournament happened and it’s clear that Pritchard and this roster could have made some noise.
Gonzaga lost their next game to Michigan, but played exceptional ball down the stretch, especially in conference play. They won another WCC Tournament title and were guaranteed to be a 1-seed before the NCAA Tournament was canceled. Coach Mark Few put together another fantastic roster, capable of making a deep impact had the postseason had taken place.
It’s a shame that we didn’t get to see either of these teams on the biggest stage, but at least we got this great showdown in the Bahamas. Despite a big advantage for Gonzaga early, Oregon fought back and gave us a thriller all the way down to the finish.