Oregon keeps rolling, handles Saint Louis in another 'upset'
Oregon has won its first two NCAA tournament games by a combined 30 points
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Another day, another NCAA tournament "upset" for the Oregon Ducks.
This time the 12th-seeded Ducks knocked off fourth-seeded Saint Louis 74-57 Saturday at HP Pavilion, earning a trip to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007 when they reached the Elite Eight.
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After finishing tied for second in the Pac-12 race then winning the conference tournament, the Ducks settled for a 12 seed then proceeded to prove the NCAA tournament selection committee made a mistake.
The Ducks opened the tournament with a convincing victory over Oklahoma State, the No. 5 seed in the Midwest region, before beating Saint Louis, which had won 16 of its past 17 games.
Next up for the Ducks? None other than Louisville, the tournament's No. 1 overall seed, in a Midwest Regional semifinal at Indianapolis.
This time, the Ducks will have to pull off a legitimate upset to reach the Elite Eight.
"We're going to have to play the best game we have all year," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "There's no doubt about that. They'll have a lot of fans there. We won't have many. It's a long ways to go, but man, our guys are excited. I'm excited. Hopefully we'll play well."
That's exactly what the Ducks did in back-to-back games in San Jose, in front of a large contingent of Oregon fans.
Dotson scored 17 points against Oklahoma State then exploded for 23 against Saint Louis, making 8 of 12 shots from the field and 5 of 6 from long range.
"He's just unbelievable," Singler said of Dotson. "His confidence is sky high. He's just really confident in his shot right now. He needs to continue to do that, continue to score for us, because he's a big weapon for us on the offensive end. He just needs to continue to be aggressive and assertive."
That's the plan, Dotson said.
"I'm just trying to stay aggressive, offense and defense, and just do whatever Coach tells me," Dotson said. "He tells me to shoot the catch?and?shoots, and that's what I've been doing. And just try stay aggressive and be a good teammate for my team and do whatever Coach wants me to."
Kwamain Mitchell led Saint Louis with 18 points. Dwayne Evans had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Billikens, who finished the season 28-7 and missed out on a chance to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1957. Jordair Jett added 11 points.
For Saint Louis, the loss ended a season that was an emotional, bittersweet journey, with each game a tribute to former coach Rick Majerus, who died of heart failure on Dec. 1. Majerus announced in August that he wouldn't coach the team this season, and assistant coach Jim Crews took over as interim coach.
Crews led Saint Louis to Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season and tournament titles and earned conference coach of the year honors. Drew and the Billikens, however, had no answer for the surging Ducks and coach Dana Altman, who has his team in the Sweet 16 in just his third season at Oregon.
"Well, obviously we played a very good basketball team tonight and we didn't play very well, so that's not a good formula to have a successful night, and we didn't," Crews said. "But one night's not going to overshadow what these guys ... have done this year. They've just done a remarkable job.
"In the midst of uncertainty, just hung in there. We had a big hole and each one grabbed a shovel and dug in and contributed in ways off the court, on the court and relationship?wise that was an amazing five, six months that we've had together."
Just as they did in their tournament-opening win over Oklahoma State, the Ducks built a commanding lead in the first half. Emory scored 10 points, Dotson nine and Singler seven, lifting Oregon to a 35-19 advantage by the break.
The Ducks shot 60 percent from the field in the first half, making 15 of 25 shots, and 66.7 percent from long range, going 4 for 6.
Saint Louis, meanwhile, made just 7 of 24 first-half shots (29.2 percent) and missed all 10 from 3-point range. This from a team that entered the game shooting 34.7 percent from long range.
Containing Evans was job No. 1 for Oregon on the defensive end. Evans, a junior forward, led the Billikens in scoring and rebounding during the regular season, averaging 14.0 points and 7.7 points. Then in his first four postseason games before facing Oregon, Evans was even better. He averaged 22.3 points and 8.5 rebounds. Evans scored a game-high 24 points against New Mexico State, the most ever by a Billiken in the NCAA tournament. He made 11 of 16 shots and grabbed six rebounds.
Singler drew the opening defensive assignment vs. Evans, but the Ducks quickly switched to a zone, doubling Evans whenever he touched the ball.
Evans scored just six points in the first half, despite making 3 of 4 shots.
Oregon consistently forced other Billikens to shoot -- usually from outside -- and they rarely connected. Rob Loe and Mike McCall Jr. each went 0 for 4 in the opening half, while Mitchell and Cody Ellis shot 1 for 4.
For most of the first half, the Ducks pressured Saint Louis' guards long before they crossed the midcourt line.
"I think we really took them out of their offensive rhythm, playing a lot of 2-2-1 press and going back into our zone," Singler said. "I think coach really did a good job of knowing when to press and when to zone and when to man. I think it kind of took them, not by surprise, but put them back on their heels a little bit. It just seemed like they weren't as comfortable as they usually are. I just thought we did really good collectively as a team of talking and getting them out of what they wanted to do."
Saint Louis took a 14-13 lead with just under 11 minutes left in the first half on Mitchell's driving lay-in, but the Ducks answered with a 14-4 run to build a 28-17 edge with just under five minutes left.
Dotson had seven points during the run, draining a 3-point shot, making an acrobatic baseline lay-in then scoring inside again on a fast break. Emory added four points during the spurt, and Singler three on a 3-point shot.
Then in the final 2:05 of the first half, Oregon blitzed the Billikens 7-0. Singler scored from the key and Tony Woods from inside. Then Johnathan Loyd drilled a 3-point shot, just beating the buzzer.
Saint Louis quickly pulled to within 11 points of the Ducks in the second half at 37-26 as Evans scored two baskets and Mitchell hit a 3. But the Ducks went on a 7-2 run, increasing their lead to 44-28 with under 14 minutes left. Dotson connected from long range, Loyd turned a steal into a fast break lay-in, and Waverly Austin scored from inside.
"I know we have a team that's never just going to give up and roll over," Evans said. "We expected to come out and have a big second half and make some runs. But obviously they played better than us. We didn't get the job done."
The Ducks got a scare with 10:16 left when Emory went for a block, landed hard and went to the bench in pain. Emory, however, soon returned to the court.
Emory had ice on his wrist but said he'll be "good to go" by Friday when the Ducks face Louisville.
"We can match up with any team in the county," Emory said. "We have a deep bench. We have great freshmen. We have seniors who have ambitions. We'll do whatever we have to do to make sure we match up or even play better than the team we're going against."
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