Update: Arizona won 86-75 over UCLA to advance to the championship game against Oregon.
LAS VEGAS - The No. 5 Oregon Ducks left T-Mobile Arena Friday night recognizing that their overall performance during a 73-65 win over California in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament won't cut it moving forward this postseason.
Coach Dana Altman said his team at times appeared to be "stuck in mud." Other than sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey and senior forward Chris Boucher, nobody was hitting shots, least of all junior forward Dillon Brooks, who made just 3 of 12 from the field.
"Offensively, the whole team was out of rhythm," Altman said.
On the other hand, No. 1-seeded Oregon also left the arena feeling good that the team found a way to win in other areas. Defensively, the Ducks (29-4) got stops when they needed them, especially late when Cal was in position to steal the game. They crashed the boards well enough to limit the Golden Bears' possessions. Oregon also managed to find ways to get the ball into the basket late, allowing the team to always remain a basket or two ahead of No. 5-seeded Cal (20-12). In the end, Altman believes that the silver lining to be found in his team's erratic performance is that they made plays late when they were needed them most.
"Your offense isn't going to flow well in every game," Altman said. "We've learned that in past games. So when you have to depend on your defense, you have to depend on your rebounding, you've got to go through a close game, and guys have to step up and make plays. And guys have to step up and make stops and get rebounds. That pressure of going through it and accomplishing something, I think that does help you."
Oregon advances to the conference championship game for the third consecutive season and fourth time in five years. UO has won the Pac-12 tournament twice during that stretch, including last season. The Ducks' opponent at 8 p.m., Saturday will either No. 7 Arizona after it defeated UCLA, 86-75 in the final game of the evening.
The Wildcats could wax Oregon if it plays like it did tonight. Heck, if Brooks plays like he did the Ducks could be DOA come Saturday.
Altman said Brooks, who finished 3 of 12 from the field for 10 points, began the game by taking too many quick shots, and too many bad shots. He also got into foul trouble and had to exit the game early in the second half.
Brooks certainly didn't disagree that he played poorly, stating that he maybe tried to hard to get things going early in the game.
"I had an off-day," he said. "Shots weren't falling. I was fouling a lot. Cheap fouls."
Oregon players not named Dorsey combined to make just 15 of 43 shot attempts (34.9 percent). Dorsey, on the other hand, seems to love Las Vegas. He had a great tournament last year, something his roommate, junior forward Jordan Bell reminded him of.
"I told him I need that same Tyler out there this year," Bell said.
Dorsey delivered, making 9 of 13 shots for a 23 points. He scored 21 in Thursday afternoon's second-round win over Arizona State.
Dorsey said he simply waited for opportunities to present themselves and took advantage.
"My teammates were finding me in great positions," Dorsey said.
Said Altman: "Fortunately, Tyler offensively really did a good job. And I felt defensively he really picked it up down the stretch."
Boucher made 4 of 7 shots off the bench for 10 points.
Oregon still has an outside shot of receiving a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if the Ducks can win Saturday night. Nerves shouldn't be an issue. These Ducks have all tasted great success over the past few years, especially her in Las Vegas.
"That experience, I hope, pays dividends...," Altman said. "We are experienced but as you can tell from today, I don't think we used that experience like we should of. So, it's a learning experience with every game. I hope we learned something today."
The lessons get tougher from here on out.