SACRAMENTO, Calif. - By now, running a heat check on Oregon sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey could result in someone getting singed.
He is on fire. No doubt. And the Ducks are fortunate that he is, otherwise their season would have come to an end Sunday night at the Golden 1 Center.
Dorsey's two three-pointers in the final two minutes, respectively, tied No. 11-seed Rhode Island and gave the No. 3 Ducks a 75-72 lead with 38 seconds remaining that Oregon (31-5) held on to, advancing to the Sweet 16 where they will face No. 7 Michigan (26-11) on Thursday in Kansas City, Mo.
Those two clutch plays by Dorsey only tell half of the story. Granted, the most important half. Nevertheless, his night was defined by too many clutch moments to name them all.
Time and time again he made plays to keep UO in this game while teammates, junior forward Dillon Brooks, senior guard Dylan Ennis and freshman guard Payton Pritchard, scuffled. The Ducks trailed 46-38 at halftime with Dorsey only getting off three shots, all good. In the second half he made 6 of 7 field goal attempts to finish with a game-high 27 points. His three aforementioned pals made a combined 9 of 32 attempts on the night.
"Super big," Brooks said of Dorsey's impact. "He was attacking the rim and making threes. He was keeping us in the game and towards the end me, Dylan and Payton started making plays to help us out."
Those "help" plays mostly came on defense and when rebounding, helping to set up Dorsey on offense. An Ennis play on the ball to keep it alive following a Brooks' miss late led to Jordan Bell getting the ball. It ultimately went to Dorsey, who made a three-pointer with 1:46 remaining to tie the game at 72-72. On the game-winner, Dorsey sized up his defender from beyond the top of they key, thought about driving but then pulled up for a pure jumper that rang true for the lead over the Rams (25-10).
Dorsey deflected credit for his great play.
"It's just my teammates," he said. "They've been finding me, and all I've been doing is spotting up and making the simple play and the right play, the right basketball play. Like Coach always says, keep my focus first on defense and rebounding and the offense, let it come. That's all I've been doing these last couple games and my teammates have been having confidence in me and I've been knocking down the shots."
Dorsey had an erratic regular season that saw him make three or fewer field goals in 14 games. During the postseason, however, he has taken his game to another level.
Over three games in the Pac-12 Tournament, Dorsey made 24 of 42 shots (57 percent) while averaging 22.3 points per game. In two NCAA Tournament games, he is shooting 18 of 23 (78 percent) while averaging 25.5 per game. His total postseason numbers are: 42 of 65 (64.6 percent) and averaging 23.6 points per game. He's also tossed in 20 rebounds, nine assists and seven steals
"I think the biggest factor is Tyler is a player," UO coach Dana Altman said. "He's not just a scorer. I thought for a while he locked in on his offense and we weren't getting him the ball enough for a period in the season and that was my fault...When he's playing as a player, not just a scorer, I think that's when he really comes alive. I mentioned that in the conference tournament. He starts the first game, he gets 9 rebounds. Against Cal, his defensive effort saved us. I just think when he's thinking about himself being a player, the rest of his game comes. He doesn't focus just on that missed shot or a bad play."
On the final three-point shot, Dorsey said he saw a big man covering him and that his hands never came up as he protected against the drive.
"His hands never came up and I let it go, but if his hands would have came up I probably would have thought about driving," Dorsey said. "That's how I was thinking through that process."
Altman liked the decision made by Dorsey on both critical shots.
"I thought he made a really good read on it," Altman said. "I yelled at him to shoot it because I saw his hands down and I saw his feet were right. The other one right in front of the bench, I was, you know, I said, "hit it buddy." And the one, I saw his feet were right and the guy's hands were right and I was yelling at him to shoot it because I thought it was the right play."
Dorsey has made the right play over and over for UO. If he keeps it up, the Ducks just might overcome the loss of Chris Boucher and make a serious run at the Final Four.