PULLMAN – E.J. Singler, long known as a winner on the basketball court, took it upon himself to make certain he officially became the biggest winner in Oregon Ducks history.
Singler sank two free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining in overtime to lift the 23rd-ranked Ducks past scrappy Washington State, 79-77, in a Pacific-12 Conference thriller Saturday night at Beasley Coliseum.
Singler, who broke a tie with Freddie Jones and Joevan Catron by playing in a school-record 82nd victory, sank the clinching free throws after WSU sophomore guard Dexter Kernich-Drew lost track of the score and deliberately fouled Singler far from the basket.
Barely 4 seconds earlier, the last-place Cougars had tied the first-place Ducks when Royce Woolridge drained a 3-pointer to cap his career-high, 36-point performance.
“You can’t point fingers,” Woolridge said. “It was just a mental mistake.”
The Ducks won their third straight game to improve to 21-5 overall and 10-3 in the Pac-12. The Cougars (11-15, 2-11), who led Oregon by 10 at halftime Jan. 23 in a 68-61 loss in Eugene, led 38-27 at halftime Saturday.
“It was a great game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “We were fortunate to win.
“They (the Cougars) played with great energy in the first half. I thought we did in the second half.”
The Cougars have lost six in a row overall and five straight to Oregon. Remarkably, WSU is 0-8 in overtime games against the Ducks since a 1967 victory.
Singler scored 20 of his season-high 25 points in the second half. The Cougars led most of the way, but Singler ignited a quick outburst at the start of the second half to briefly give Oregon a 44-43 lead.
“They’re tough at home,” Singler said. “They played a heck of a game.
“They did a good job spreading us out and just attacking us (on offense).”
Woolridge, a sophomore transfer from Kansas, set career highs across the board with his 10-for-15 shooting from the field, 6-for-9 accuracy on 3-pointers and 10-for-11 performance at the free-throw line. The son of former NBA star Orlando Woolridge came into the game averaging just 8.8 points per game, but he topped his previous career high of 20 points (set Dec. 1 against Portland) by scoring 22 in the first half Saturday.
“He had a fabulous night,” Singler said. “No one on our team could stop him.”
Starting point guards Dominic Artis (foot) of Oregon and Mike Ladd (knee) of Washington State remained out with injuries.
Carlos Emory scored 20 points for Oregon, and Damyean Dotson added 16. Arsalan Kazemi, a senior transfer from Rice and the first Iran native to play NCAA Division I basketball, had eight points and 12 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.
“He’s been awesome for us all year,” Singler said.
The Cougars outscored Oregon 15-2 midway through the first half. During that stretch, Ducks center Tony Woods was ejected for a flagrant foul against Brock Motum, who scored 12 points for the only Cougars.
The Ducks missed two shots in the final seconds of regulation after WSU’s DaVonte Lacy buried a 3-pointer from the left corner with 8.5 seconds remaining.
The Cougars missed 5 of 6 shots in overtime before an enthusiastic crowd of 5,216.