Dylan Ennis

Oregon swats away No. 1 Kansas, 74-60, advances to Final Four

Oregon swats away No. 1 Kansas, 74-60, advances to Final Four

Oregon 74, Kansas 60 

How Oregon won: No. 3 Oregon (33-5) shot the lights out all night and played spirited and aggressive defense against No. 1 Kansas (31-5) to stun the mostly pro-Jayhwks crowd of 18,643 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., and win 74-60 to advance to the Final Four in Phoenix, Ariz.

Oregon got off to a fantastic start shooting 60 percent in the first half including 7 of 12 from three-point range. That led to a 44-33 lead at the break. The Ducks closed the half with two three-point baskets from sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey. One bounced off the rim, went straight up then back down and in. The other came from straight away deep and went off the backboard at the buzzer. 

Dorsey had 14 in the first half, senior guard Dylan Ennis had 10 and junior forward Dillon Brooks scored 9. Maybe the best performance of the half came from junior forward Jordan Bell, who had four points, eight rebounds and blocked four shots that set the tone on defense. 

Kansas shot 42.9 percent in the first half and were hurt considerably by the foul trouble that Josh Jackson found himself in early on. It disrupted his flow and he finished with zero points after shooting just one shot. Frank Mason III carried the Jayhawks in the first half with 17. 

The great play on offense by UO fell off a bit in the second half but the Ducks' defense did not. Bell put fear into the hearts of every Kansas player that entred the paint with eight blocked shots that ultimately led to countless other altered shots for the Jayhawks. 

On offense, whenever Kansas even remotely looked like it could get back into the game, someone on Oregon made a big play to push the Jayhawks back. 

What it means: Oregon advances to the Final Four for the first time since 1939 when the Ducks last won a national title. 

Key sequence: Kansas got the deficit down to 61-51 in the second half and turned up the heat on defense. After moving the ball around a bit, it ended up in the hands of Dorsey, who starred down his defender and nailed a three-pointer to make the score 64-51, UO. As Dorsey ran back on defense he put one finger to his lips to tell the pro-Kansas crowd to "shush." 

Kansas cut its deficit down to 64-55 but then Ennis scored on a layup to give UO a 66-55 lead. 

Kansas later got a three from forward Svi Mykhailiuk to make it 66-60, UO with 2:49 remaining. Then KU seemingly had a defensive stop working when the shot clock ran down on UO forcing Dorsey to throw up a desperation shot. Kansas, however, failed to get the rebound and the ball landed in Bell's hands. Seconds later, Dorsey cranked up a three to go up 69-60 with 1:41 remaining. 

That was pretty much that. 

High-flying Ducks: Dorsey ended with 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting and had five rebounds. Bell gave the Ducks 11 points and 13 rebounds to go along with his eight blocked shots. 

Brooks scored 17 while making 7 of 18 shots. 

Up next:  Oregon will take on the winner of Sunday's South Region finals game between No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Kentucky in next Saturday's Final Four. 

Oregon's resolve, guile and heart deserve admiration after 69-68 win over Michigan

Oregon's resolve, guile and heart deserve admiration after 69-68 win over Michigan

KANSAS CITY - Oregon senior guard Dylan Ennis put his head down in disappointment after missing his second front end of one-and-one free throw attempts in the final two minutes Thursday night, the latter coming with the Ducks leading 69-68 over Michigan at the Sprint Center. 

Ennis felt deflated, knowing that having made the first of his second one-and-one attempt would have given his team a two-point lead with 15 seconds remaining in the game. Making two at the end would have put the No. 3 Ducks up three. 

"I went straight over to him," Oregon junior guard Casey Benson said, describing how he offered Ennis encouragement.

But Ennis, a 74.8 percent free throw shooter, didn't need much of a pep talk. He knew he had to find a way to make amends with Michigan having one final chance at pulling out a victory. 

Ennis, as it turned out, ended up on Michigan senior guard Derrick Walton Jr.   Ennis made it difficult on Walton, a deft penetrator who ultimately settled for a deep jumper that banged off the rim at the buzzer. Ducks win, 69-68 to advance to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season. 

"If they hit that shot, it's on you," Ennis said, "and I didn't want to live with that for the rest of my life. So I dug in."

Oregon (32-5) has made digging in a habit this postseason. When this season comes to a close - national champions, or not - these Oregon Ducks should be remembered for their guts, guile and heart. All three have carried them through no matter what obstacles stand in their way. Some have been created by their own doing. Some have come about because of bad luck. Others were the result of strong play from a worthy opponent, such as Michigan.

"The team with the most heart won," UO forward Dillon Brooks said. 

That Oregon, which will face No. 1 Kansas on Saturday, made it this far is not shocking. But that they have twice overcome being eliminated by finding a way win over and over has been impressive. The Ducks, minus star forward Chris Boucher (knee) this postseason, easily could have lost in the second to Rhode Island, but pulled out a 75-72 lead thanks to shutting down the Rams over the final few minutes and getting two huge three-point shots from sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey. 

Several clutch plays defined Thursday night's win. No. 7 Michigan (26-12) led 68-65 when Ennis missed his first front end of a one-and-one. That could have proven to be devastating. But junior forward Jordan Bell slithered his way underneath Michigan's big men to gather the rebound and put it back in with a reverse layup to make the score 68-67. 

After the game, Ennis joked that he owed Bell dinner for "saving his life." Bell joked that his teammate certainly owed him something. But most of all, several of Oregon's players said that that's just how they do things. As a team. Having one another's backs. Picking one another up. Remaining strong. 

"We were just playing tough," Brooks said. "Teams are going to go up and we're going to go down. But we're not going to get discouraged."

After one of the team's three defensive stops over the final two minutes, Dorsey ended up with the ball and Oregon down 68-67. He fiercely grinded his way to get off a shot. Driving left. Getting stopped. Faking. Spinning. Getting his defender into the air. Then he smoothly floated in a layup for the lead. 

"Do whatever you can to win," Bell said. 

Michigan was labeled as the team of destiny after experiencing a minor plane crash earlier this month prior to the start of the postseason. Maybe now it's Oregon that has some of that destiny stuff working for it right about now. 

"It's just exciting to move on to the next game and have another opportunity to go to the Final Four," Benson said. 

The Ducks were blasted last season by Oklahoma in the Elite Eight during that attempt to reach the Final Four. They weren't quite ready for that level of play. Saturday against Kansas will be very difficult. Its fan base has taken over the Sprint Center and it helped propel the Jayhawks to a 98-66 win over No. 4 Purdue. 

The Ducks will need every bit of their defensive prowess and the tenacity they displayed Thursday night to get through that game. 

"That's what kind of defense we need for 40 minutes," Brooks said. "The offense will come. Tonight it didn't."

Oregon in many ways is inferior to Kansas. Missing Boucher could really finally catch up with the Ducks on Saturday.

"I feel really bad for Chris, just because it's tearing him up," UO coach Dana Altman said. "He wants to be out there so bad, help his teammates.

The Ducks might go down Saturday. But it won't be without a fight. And it won't be because they lacked the heart to stand in there, take big blows and fire back with desire. 

Oregon returns to regional finals after 69-68 win over Michigan

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USA Today

Oregon returns to regional finals after 69-68 win over Michigan

Oregon 69, Michigan 68 

How Oregon won: No. 3 Oregon (32-5) once again found a way late in a NCAA Tournament game to pull out a narrow victory and advance, winning 69-68 over No. 7 Michigan (26-12) Thursday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. 

Oregon sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey, the hero in the team's second-round win over Rhode Island, made a three-foot shot to give UO a 69-68 lead with 1:09 remaining, and the Ducks got stops on Michigan's final three possessions over the final two minutes and change to earn the win. 

Michigan guard Derrick Walton Jr. missed a jump shot from 18 feet out at the buzzer.

Michigan attempted 31 three-point shots, making just 11. The Wolverines made 14 of 27 two-point field goals. Michigan coach John Bielein said there were several threes his team shouldn't have taken but also added that the Wolverines were mindful of Oregon forward Jordan Bell's defensive prowess inside. 

Oregon shot 44.8 percent from the field. Michigan made 43.1 percent of its shots and committed just one turnover in the second half after committing seven in the first half. The Ducks only turned the ball over five times all game. 

What it means: Oregon advances to the regional finals for the second consecutive season. Oregon last year lost 80-68 to Oklahoma in the West Regional finals in Anaheim, Calif. 

Key sequence: Oregon led 60-55 after senior guard Dylan Ennis hit a jump shot with 5:10 remaining. Michigan, however, answered with back-to-back three pointers. First D.J. Wilson made one from 24 feet out off an assist from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. Dorsey then missed a jumper for Oregon setting up a three from Derrick Walton Jr. from 27 feet out to give the Wolverines a 61-60 lead with 4:15 remaining in the game, and causing UO coach Dana Altman to call a timeout.

The talking to worked. Dorsey came out of the timeout and got a three from the corner from to make the score 63-61, UO. But then, Irvin came back for Michigan with a three to give the Wolverines a 64-63 lead. 

Michigan led 68-65 with 1:49 remaining when Ennis missed the front end of a one-and-one. But Bell got the offensive rebound and scored to make the score 68-67, Michigan. 

Some 40 seconds later, Dorsey hit what proved to be the game-winner. 

High-flying Ducks: Dorsey finished with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting and made five of his seven three-point attempts. 

Bell had 16 points and 13 rebounds. 

Ennis gave the Ducks 10 points, five rebounds and three assists. Oregon junior forward Dillon Brooks had a relatively quiet night scoring 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting. However, he added four rebounds and five assists. 

Fowl play: UO junior forward Kavell Bigby-Williams only gave the Ducks one points and two rebounds in eight minutes of action. 

Up next: Oregon will play the winner of tonight's second game between No. 1 Kansas and No. 4 Purdue on Saturday. 

Tyler Dorsey lifts Oregon over Rhode Island, 75-72, and into Sweet 16

Tyler Dorsey lifts Oregon over Rhode Island, 75-72, and into Sweet 16

Oregon 75, Rhode Island 72 

How Oregon won: No. 3 Oregon (31-5) came back from a double-digit deficit in the second half to win on a three-pointer from sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey with 38 seconds remaining Sunday at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. 

No. 11 Rhode Island (25-10) received great performances from guards Stanford Robinson (21 points) and Jared Terrell (15) to take 46-38 at halftime and led by 11 in the second half.

But the Ducks kept chipping away at their deficit before taking a lead late only to watch the Rams come back.

After Dorsey's three, Oregon made two stops as a desperate Rhode Island team fired up bad three-point attempts.

Rhode Island shot 51 percent from the field. Oregon shot 48 percent.  

What it means: Oregon advances to the Sweet 16 in Kansas City, Mo.

Key sequence: In the first half, UO forward Dillon Brooks gave UO a 25-18 lead on a tip in of a missed three-point attempt from freshman guard Payton Pritchard.

However, Brooks had something to say to the Rams' defenders and received a technical foul. E.C. Matthews made both free throws for Rhode Island to make the score 25-20.

After the game, Brooks said he yelled, "This is a big man's game."

Oregon pushed its lead to 30-22 with 6:36 remaining and then Rhode Island took control. A 10-4 run by the Rams made the score 34-32, UO. Later, Robinson hit a three to give the Rams a 37-36 lead that eventually grew to 46-38 at halftime. 

In the second half, the Ducks looked to be in trouble before a late run got them a brief lead. The Rams, however, came back to take a 72-68 lead on a tip-in basket by Robinson. UO senior gaurd Dylan Ennis hit a free throw to make it 72-69. A minute later, Dorsey hit a three to tie the game with 1:46 remaining. 

That set up his game-winning heroics with the deep three to win it. 

High-flying Ducks: Dorsey was red hot once again this postseason. He made all three of his shots in the first half and finished 9 of 10 for 27 points. He made 4 of 5 from three-point range.

Junior forward Bell had six points and 12 rebounds. Brooks shot poorly (7 of 20), but scored 19 points and had seven rebounds. 

Fowl play: Ennis and Pritchard did not show up for this one. Ennis shot 1 of 6 for seven points, but he did have five rebounds and four assists. Pritchard also shot 1 of 6 from the field to finish with five points. He committed four turnovers. 

Up next: Oregon will travel to Kansas City, Mo., to play No. 7 Michigan. The Wolverines (26-11) upset No. 2 Louisville (25-9), 73-69 earlier Sunday. 

 

Ducks look forward to getting physical with Rhode Island

Ducks look forward to getting physical with Rhode Island

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Oregon forward Jordan Bell felt the action becoming physical early on during Friday's 93-77 win over Iona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

After a bit of banging and shoving inside, Bell said he glanced over at an official looking for a foul. When informed by the official that he was going to let them play inside, Bell reacted favorably. 

"It was on," he said. "Let's go."

During the course of the game, Bell said he got busted in the lip twice, banged in the back and in the ribs. No problem. 

“I love it,” Bell said with a smile.

That's good because he and the Ducks are going to see even more physical play from Rhode Island in Sunday's second-round matchup at the Golden 1 Center. 

The 11-seeded Rams (25-9) are known for their defense and physical brand of basketball. They like to ugly things up. So far, that strategy has worked well for them. Rhode Island has won nine consecutive games. and along the way won the Atlantic 10 Tournament. On Thursday, the Rams took down six-seeded Creighton, 84-72. 

“We have to come out and punch them in the mouth first," Bell said. "Don't let them hit us first because then they are going to get energy and confidence.”

Lips busted. Punches. Hits. Is this UFC or the NCAA Tournament?

The Ducks appear to be good with a mixture of both.

"They want to try to punk you," UO senior guard Dylan Ennis said. "I love that kind of basketball."

Oregon's athletes are superior to what the Rams can put on the court. But that won't matter if Rhode Island can control the game on defense and slow down the tempo.

“We’re going to have to really push it and get out there and run, and create plays for out teammates,” UO junior forward Dillon Brooks said.

If Oregon can get its flow going on offense, the Rams will be done. They can't match Oregon's firepower. They haven't needed to. Rhode Island has held opponents to 64.9 points per game and 40 percent shooting. But the Rams haven't faced many teams like Oregon. Rhode Island's best victory came over Cincinnati, the sixth seed in the South Region. The Rams lost 75-65 to Duke, the second seed in the East Region.

The Ducks are certainly more battle tested. However, the same was true last season when the UO faced Saint Joseph's - also out of the Atlantic 10 - in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, Wash.  UO escaped with a 69-65 win. Sunday's game could be similar.

Oregon sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey said Rhode Island does a good job of creating disruption.  

“They play with a lot of active hands," he said. "They put a lot of pressure up. They deny the wings and deny the post. So they like to play aggressive and I think that’s what makes their defense strong.”

Rhode Island features two bigs in the middle that can make life tough for opponents. Hassan Martin is averaging 2.5 blocked shots per game. He is the Rams' version of Oregon's Bell. Then there's Kuran Iverson, averaging 1.3 blocked shots. The pair of Rams big men combine for 14.4 rebounds per game. 

"Their athleticism is very good," UO coach Dana Altman said. "They get out and pressure and are very physical, similar to Arizona in our league. I like their group. I like their depth. They're making with tremendous confidence."

Dorsey and Brooks said Oregon must do a good job of moving the ball around in order to create openings. One benefit of playing with good shot blockers is being prepared for such skills on opposing teams.

"Obviously, in practice every day playing with or against Jordan and Chris you see that," UO junior guard Casey Benson said. "It's obviously when you see Jordan and Chris two of the best shot-blockers in the country that helps. They're going to be flying around and we've got to get the best shots possible knowing that they're coming and making plays for each other to get open looks and get drives to the basket."

 

Ducks open NCAAs with win, remain confident chemistry will remain minus Boucher

Ducks open NCAAs with win, remain confident chemistry will remain minus Boucher

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Oregon senior forward Chris Boucher couldn't help his team on the floor during the Ducks' 93-77 win over Iona Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But he still offered his infectious energy in other ways. 

Boucher, out for a the season after tearing his ACL during last week's Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., could be seen at the Golden 1 Center cheering, encouraging and from time to time, getting his groove on with celebratory dance moves while wearing a black knee brace over black sweatpants on the team's bench. 

Not having the 6-foot-10 Boucher's physical abilities will certainly hurt the Ducks' chances of advancing deep into the tournament. Losing the chemistry the team built up with Boucher as a central figure should also be a concern. So far, so good. 

"I don't think the chemistry changed at all," UO senior guard Dylan Ennis said. "Chris, him being on the sideline is just like him being on the floor chemistry-wise. He's physically not there, but he's so much a part of our team, encouraging us. Obviously having him out there it's a different look. But if all of us stay on the defensive end and all of us stay active on defense, then, hopefully we can makeup for him being out."

No. 3-seed UO (29-5) had little trouble with Iona, jumping out to a 55-37 lead at halftime. The Gaels came back to make things semi interesting at 73-60, but then the Ducks reapplied the clamps and that was that. 

Oregon didn't seem to miss Boucher. The Ducks dominated the glass, 41-27 and shot 55.6 percent from the field. However, Iona certainly isn't a high measuring stick. The Gaels can shoot the three well but proved incapable of producing many open looks against the Ducks' defense. Stopping Oregon for Iona appeared to be impossible at times.

The Ducks will face much tougher competition ahead, starting with No. 11-seeded Rhode Island on Sunday. The Rams defeated No. 6-seeded Creighton, 84-72 on Friday. There will come a night when Boucher won't have much to dance about and his absence will be felt. Surviving those types of nights will require several things for Oregon, and it got some of those today. 

Freshman guard Payton Pritchard and junior guard Casey Benson showed up after poor showing in Las Vegas. Pritchard gave UO 18 points and Benson scored seven off the bench. Good Tyler Dorsey also made the trip to Sacramento and gave the Ducks 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting. When he plays like that to compliment Dillon Brooks, 18 points, Oregon is a beast of a team. 

The potential negative was the play of junior forward Kavell Bigby-Williams. At 6-10, he is needed to give the Ducks some of the inside presence they lost with Boucher went down. Bigby-Williams battled foul trouble all game and finished with four fouls and four points. UO coach Dana Altman, after the game, joked that his big man had picked up some of Brooks' bad habits of picking up ticky-tack fouls. However, Altman said he was overall pleased with Bigby-Williams' performance. 

"Six rebounds in 14 minutes was very good," Altman said. "You can tell he's a good rebounder. I thought his defensive work was pretty good... I thought he played pretty good. We had him hedging some ball screens. He got out there a little far on one and made a mistake there, but the more experience gets, he will continue to get better and better. I thought he did his job today. He did get a couple of fouls, but I thought he was contesting the shot pretty good. It could have went either way."

Oregon won a tournament game for the fifth consecutive season. However, the goal is to improve on last season's Elite Eight appearance in the West Regional Finals where they lost badly to Oklahoma. Getting that far will be tough minus Boucher, but the Ducks don't lack confidence in their ability to survive and advance with what they have available. 

"I feel like we got a confident bunch," Brooks said. "Guys are ready to play from 1-12. We got confidence in each other. Last year we made a great run, and we had a veteran leadership, but this year I feel like we got a confident bunch, and, you know, thinking about one goal and one goal only."
 

Ducks open NCAA Tournament with 93-77 win over Iona

Ducks open NCAA Tournament with 93-77 win over Iona

Oregon 93, Iona 77

How Oregon won: No. 3-seed Oregon (30-5) had little trouble dispatching of No. 14 seed Iona (22-13) during the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif.

The Ducks were too athletic and too skilled for the sharp-shooting Gaels who used their three-point shooting to remain close for a bit in the first half before superior Oregon ran away with a 55-37 lead at halftime. 

Oregon built a 26-point lead in the second only to watch the Gaels shoot their way back to within 83-70 with 5:56 remaining in the game, but the Ducks never relinquished control of the game. 

Iona made 10 of 26 three-point attempts. Oregon shot 55.6 percent from the field and won the rebounding battle, 41-27. 

What it means: The Ducks have won a tournament game for the fifth consecutive season. 

Key sequence: Iona hit consecutive three-point baskets sandwiched around an Oregon field goal to make the score 29-26 Ducks with 8:35 remaining in the first half. From that point on, the Ducks outscored Iona 29-11 before the break to take command of the game with a 55-37 lead at halftime.

During the run, the Ducks got a three-pointer from junior guard Casey Benson and 12 points from junior forward Jordan Bell along the way. A short jumper from sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey gave the Ducks a 50-35 lead with 1:42 remaining in the first half.

High-flying Ducks: Dorsey continued his torrid postseason pace with 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting. He also had five rebounds.

Freshman guard Payton Pritchard, who struggled during the Pac-12 Tournament, turned it on here today with 18 points. He made four of seven from three-point range. 

Junior forward Dillon Brooks finished with 18 points, four assists and four rebounds. 

Fowl play: Kavell Bigby-Williams, needed more now than ever with the season-ending injury to senior forward Chris Boucher, got into early foul trouble and finished with four personals, four points and six rebounds in 15 minutes of action.

He must play better if Oregon is going to advance deep into this tournament. 

Up next: Oregon will play No. 11 Rhode Island (25-9) on Sunday. The Rams defeated No. 5 Creighton, 84-72 on Friday in Sacramento. 

Five musts for the Oregon Ducks to win it all

Five musts for the Oregon Ducks to win it all

Before last week's Pac-12 Tournament I gave the Oregon Ducks about a 25 percent chance to reach the Final Four and a 15 percent chance to claim the national title. Then senior forward Chris Boucher went down and out with a knee injury during the semifinals. 

Gone went the availability of the 6-foot-10 shot blocking, rebounding, stretch-four three-point shooting and power dunking beast who is undoubtedly the team's second best all-around player next to junior forward Dillon Brooks. 

It's a devastating blow for the Ducks, a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional who begins tournament play at 11 a.m., Friday against No. 14 Iona in Sacramento, Calif. For me the loss of Boucher reduces Oregon's chances of making a deep run into the tournament to about five percent to the Final Four and a one percent chance for the Ducks to claim their first national title since 1939.  Las Vegas oddsmakers dropped the Ducks' odds of winning the national title from 12-1 before the Pac-12 Tournament to 25-1. Conference rivals Arizona and UCLA both sit at 12-1. Why the shift for UO? It's all about the absence of Boucher.

It remains possible that the Ducks could get red-hot and rattle of six wins to take it all. Lesser teams have done so in the past. But for that to happen, which would likely include having to take down No. 2 seed Louisville and No. 1 seed Kansas, Oregon would need at least five specific occurrences to take place. And, it simply just doesn't appear to be plausible to expect all five to occur on six consecutive nights. 

Here they are:

1. Kavell Bigby-Williams must consistently deliver:  The 6-10 junior transfer gave the Ducks three points, six rebounds and two blocked shots during 14 minutes of action in UO's 83-80 loss to Arizona in the Pac-12 title game. If he shows up like that six more times, UO could be in business. However, here is the rub: If he were capable of delivering such solid performances in the pressure of a NCAA Tournament then why wasn't he seeing more consistent playing time during the regular season? UO coach Dana Altman didn't lean on him for more than 9.7 minutes per game for a reason. Altman doesn't fully trust him. Bigby-Williams rarely received 10 or more minutes in games that weren't blowouts. During a 75-73 win at Stanford on Feb. 25, he played 10 minutes but picked up three fouls in that time. He had three fouls and two turnovers in 12 minutes of action during a 79-61 win at home over Utah on Feb. 16. Such performances are what led Altman to play Bigby-Williams for just nine minutes over the first two conference tournament games. But to his credit, he did play well against the Wildcats. But can he do that again, and again, and again?  If so, UO would at the very least have an adequate big man off the bench to help grab rebounds and defend bigs. But if he starts turning over the ball and getting into foul trouble, he becomes a liability that UO has no real replacement for. We can't completely forget about the 6-10 Roman Sorkin. But, again, we're talking about a guy Altman has not displayed much trust in. Sorkin has played just 8.1 minutes per game on the season, has never received more than 10 minutes in a close game and didn't play at all in the final two games of the Pac-12 Tournament. The Ducks desperately need Bigby-Williams to round into top form on a nightly basis right now. 

2. Great Tyler Dorsey must maintain a consistent presence: When this guy is hot, Oregon is tough to beat. When he is bad, the Ducks have survived in the past only because others picked him up. Not having Boucher around to be that consistent force next to Brooks means Dorsey cannot play poorly in any game after the second round if UO is going to advance. In 14 games this season, Dorsey made just three field goals or fewer while shooting 22.7 percent (23 of 101). In six of those games he made just one or zero baskets. That's 14 of the team's 34 games, or 41 percent of the time, in which Dorsey's game simply vanished. If past is prologue, then it stands to reason that if Oregon played six NCAA Tournament games Dorsey would have two or three such outings. Now, Dorsey was brilliant in the Pac-12 Tournament. He made 22 of 42 shots (9 of 19 from three) while averaging 22.3 points per game. Oregon needs that Dorsey to show up nightly because the Ducks won't have the depth to pick him up when he struggles without Boucher around. When Dorsey struggled early during the Pac-12 title game, Oregon fell behind by 14 with Brooks carrying the load. Once Dorsey got rolling and put up 21 in the second half, the Ducks came back and almost stole the title. He needs to do that every night during the NCAA Tournament. The night he doesn't against a good team, UO is done. 

3. Payton Pritchard must get rolling again: The freshman out of West Linn went from looking like a legitimate contributor to disappearing over the past four games. In the stretch he made five of 17 shots for 3.9 points per game. In the final two Pac-12 Tournament games, Pritchard made just one of six shots for four points with a weak five assists over 54 minutes. That can't continue. Pritchard must be a consistent threat to either score or be a deft distributor. When he plays well, he takes pressure off of senior guard Dylan Ennis, who has his own battles with inconsistent play, and makes it less of a necessity for UO to lean on junior backup guard Casey Benson, who can't be relied upon to provide consistent offense.  To Pritchard's credit, he committed just one turnover during the team's three Pac-12 Tournament games, but that's in part because he played it safe most of the time and merely acted as a conduit to push the ball to someone else who might take a chance at making a play. Pritchard is better than that. He has hit clutch shots this season. He has come up big in big games (15 points, nine assists against UCLA at home on Dec. 28). He has had double-digit assists. He can play at a high level. That Pritchard must return in order for the Ducks to make a deep run. 

4. Jordan Bell must avoid foul trouble: Oregon's three-guard lineup with Brooks playing power forward only works because of Bell's ability to patrol the middle on defense as a fearless rebounder and shot blocker. In the past, if he faced some foul trouble (he rarely does), UO could turn to Boucher. Not anymore. Bell committed just three fouls over 102 minutes played during the Pac-12 Tournament while blocking eight shots. That's phenomenal. He has to remain on the floor and give the Ducks that type of production against elite opponents in order for UO to advance. If he is limited by foul trouble and the Ducks are forced to turn to Bigby-Williams and Sorkin for long stretches, the Ducks could be in huge trouble. 

5. Brooks must carry this team like a player of the year should: He can't be sloppy. He must play intelligently. He has to be calculated with his aggression. But in order for UO to advance far in this tournament it will need Brooks to be even more special than he was during the regular season. No hiccups. If the Pac-12 player of the year has a game in the NCAA Tournament like he did against California during the Pac-12 semifinals when foul trouble limited him to 21 minutes and he scored just 10 points on 3 of 12 shooting, UO's season ends that day. He is going to have to make big shots in clutch moments to stop opposing runs and to bail out the rest of the team when they struggle. He might also need to hit a buzzer-beater, or two, along the way. In the Cal game, Boucher came off the bench for 10 points in 24 minutes. The rest of the bench, Bigby-Williams and Benson, offered five points in 30 combined minutes. Brooks can't have bad nights, especially beyond the first two rounds. 

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If all five of the above happen, the Ducks will make it to the Final Four in Glendale, Ariz., and give anyone there a run for their money. If not, UO will fall to advance further than it did last season when the Ducks' run ended in the Elite Eight. 

 

Oregon displays heart but lacks national championship feel minus Boucher

Oregon displays heart but lacks national championship feel minus Boucher

LAS VEGAS - Oregon junior forward Dillon Brooks bristled Saturday night at the idea that the loss of senior forward Chris Boucher for the rest of the season with a knee injury might change the Ducks' mindset entering the NCAA Tournament next week. 

"What, Chris is going to be out and we're just going to stop winning, stop competing?" Brooks said following a disappointing 83-80 loss to No. 7 Arizona in the Pac-12 title game at T-Mobile Arena. "That's not it."

The Pac-12 player of the year said the goal remains to win the national championship. His defiance and determination matched that of the team during the game. Oregon (29-5) rallied from 14-points down in the second half to nearly steal the title game just hours after learning the bad news regarding Boucher, who injured his knee Friday night in the semifinals against California.

The fact that UO nearly pulled out the win minus Boucher should give the team confidence that it can carry on. However, the reality is that the 6-foot-10, shot erasing big man with three-point range makes it a serious long shot that the Ducks could pull out three or four games like Saturday's to win the national championship. 

Boucher is that good. Oregon is that limited without him. The field is too strong, at this point, to even make reaching the Final Four appear to be anything short of daunting. 

Boucher left the game in tears after the team's loss. The team felt his pain but didn't blame the loss on his absence. 

"Chris is a very talented young man, and he's a big part of our team," UO coach Dana Altman said. "But that's part of any season. I just feel really bad for Chris. He's a wonderful young man, and it's really hard for him. It was a big blow to our team this morning. We were all kind of down, because he's one of the most popular guys on the team. He's the one guy that picks everybody up. He's a wonderful young man."

And a key part to what made the Ducks resemble a national title contender. Boucher is Oregon’s third-leading scorer (11.1 points per game) and No. 2 rebounder (6.1). Oh, and he leads the Pac-12 in blocked shots per game (2.6), which also ranks 17th in the nation. 

None of that will be easily replaced. Arizona outrebounded Oregon 35-25 and the Wildcats' bench produced 23 points compared to just three for the Ducks. 

The Ducks fortunately have another big to lean on in Kavell Bigby-Williams. He played nine minutes in the first two tournament wins after contributing just 9.5 minutes per game on the season. But he didn't disappoint. 

He said he felt confident in his abilities and that he can bring the same energy Boucher does to the floor and gave UO three points, six rebounds and two blocked shots in 14 minutes. 

"I thought Kavell played really well," Altman said. "I thought he really gave us a big lift defensively.

Said Bigby-Williams: "I felt like I did okay, but we didn't win the game so I must not have done enough." 

Moving forward, Bigby-Williams will need to play like he did on Saturday for the Ducks to survive without Boucher. But clearly it won't be all on him to make this work. 

"Coach said it's not just one person," Bigby-Williams said. "Everyone has to step up in different ways, pick up their game."

Oregon will find out its NCAA Tournament seeding fate on Sunday. Any team in its region with adequate big men and a strong bench will present a challenge for the Ducks minus Boucher. More pressure will put upon inconsistent guards Tyler Dorsey, Dylan Ennis and Payton Pritchard to perform in the tournament. Guard Casey Benson also must deliver more than the zero points off the bench he put forth Saturday. The Ducks' starting five won't carry the Ducks beyond maybe the Sweet 16. 

Each player be motivated by what happened on Saturday. 

"We're going to remember this feeling," Dorsey said. "We're going to bounce back, let it in our rear view mirror and get ready...And our goal is still intact, so we've got to get ready."

Arizona coach Sean Miller said he expected Altman to have his team ready to play in the tournament minus Boucher. 

"I wish he'd be able to play for them in the tournament, because I still believe that they can make a run to Phoenix (site of the Final Four)," he said. "But certainly they lost a key player."

A loss likely put reaching Phoenix out of Oregon's reach. 

Ducks find value in grinding out 73-65 win over Cal in Pac-12 Tournament

Ducks find value in grinding out 73-65 win over Cal in Pac-12 Tournament

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.