EUGENE, OR - If you look very, very closely at Payton Pritchard's shoes, you just may see a small spark of lightning with his first-step quickness. It's something that has terrorized opponents for four years running. Pritchard has put several defenders on skates with a simple jab step and drive in his basketball career. The 6-foot-2 senior isn't the biggest player on the court, but can create the separation he needs to get his shot off with that speedy first step.
Pritchard found his shot on Saturday night vs. the visiting Arizona State Sun Devils. Guards Remy Martin and Rob Edwards have faced Pritchard for at least two seasons, but once again Pritchard prevailed dropping a season-high 29 points and grabbing six rebounds.
His performance carried No. 9 Oregon (14-3, 3-1 Pac-12) past Arizona State (10-5, 1-2 Pac-12) 78-69 at Matthew Knight Arena.
Pritchard is a "gym rat." The type of player to show up early and stay late putting up shots. And it's paying off this season, averaging 19.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.
Not only does Oregon Coach Dana Altman have the benefit of consistency and leadership with Pritchard, but a player of that caliber and at the point guard position, who runs the offense and controls the pace of the play, is a huge advantage. And his teammates are reaping the benefits.
Payton is a senior. He's been doing this for four years now. He knows what he's supposed to do. It's a hard matchup to guard Payton. He works hard, comes in before practice and be the last person to leave sometimes. He works really hard. - sophomore Francis Okoro
As for the rest of the Pac-12, this is the fourth year opponents have had to face Pritchard. Slowing down his quick first step is one thing, shutting him down is another.
"It's going to be hard to guard Payton one-on-one," Okoro adds with a smile on his face.
UP NEXT: The Ducks fly north to face the Washington State Cougars (10-7, 1-3 Pac-12) on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. (PT) in Pullman, Washington.
After all this time, the Pac-12 still has no answers for Payton Pritchard originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest