With Will Richardson unavailable, the moment was there, waiting, for an Oregon Duck to grab and run with as the lead guy. The Ducks’ No. 1 scoring option this season, Richardson and his 15 points per conference game were back home in Eugene. A non-COVID illness kept him from making the trip to Vegas with the rest of the Ducks. Having dropped three in a row and five of its last six to close the regular season, many were fading the Ducks’ chances at the Pac-12 Tournament.

Jacob Young stepped up to the mic and reintroduced himself to the conference.

Not so fast.

Not yet, at least.

Young dished a career-high 11 assists and poured in 23 points of his own as the fifth-seeded Ducks dispatched in-state rival and No. 12 seed Oregon State 86-72 Wednesday afternoon. With the win, Oregon made it nine straight tournament appearances with at least one victory. The Ducks will play No. 4 Colorado on Thursday.

Just 7-for-20 from the 3-point line—and that’s where it’ll miss Richardson the most—but Oregon was unflappable attacking inside. Young was brilliant. The drive-and-kick game was moving the floor, guys were moving and cutting and slipping behind Beaver defenders along the baseline, and Young was finding them with pinpoint deliveries.

He registered eight assists in his first 18 minutes on the court, helping the Ducks build a double-digit first-half lead.

Jarod Lucas (22 points, 6-10 FG) and Glenn Taylor Jr. (16 points, 6-9 FG) did their best to keep the Beavers in it. A personal 5-0 spurt from Taylor in the second half got Oregon State within three points of the Ducks with 11:07 to play.

The Ducks would not be deterred. Each time Oregon State pressed to make things interesting, the Ducks found an answer. Be it from Quincy Guerrier, who finished with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting; or Eric Williams Jr., who scored five points in about 40 seconds to turn a two-possession game into an 11-point Oregon lead; or big man N’Faly Dante, who had a sequence late that featured a putback dunk on one end and then hustle back down the floor to chase down and block a quick-strike Oregon State look at the other end.

Williams finished with 14 points and eight boards on 6-of-12 shooting. Dante had 15 points, seven rebounds, and five blocks to add to the effort.

Inside the 3-point line, Oregon shot 28-for-43 on its field goal attempts. In the second half, instead of wilting, Oregon seemed to only grow in confidence. The Ducks shot 65% over the final 20 minutes.

They kept the turnovers low (nine), punished Oregon State for its mistakes (19 points off 13 turnovers), out-rebounded the Beavers, and outscored them in the paint by a wide margin. If ever there was a “get right” game, it was this one.

But it was against an Oregon State team whose season now comes to a merciful end at 3-28; Oregon (19-13) was expected to come away with a victory. Still, the Ducks have seemingly regained their footing and developed a nice little rhythm to the offense—with Young fully at the controls—in anticipation of Thursday’s opponent.

Oregon beat Colorado in Boulder this season 66-51 but lost at home 82-78. A trip to the conference semifinals will be on the line for the rubber match. The Ducks and Buffaloes tip off Thursday at 2:30 p.m. PT.