Oregon crushed UC Irvine, 73-54, and the nation's longest winning streak (17 games) on the way to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 with an incredible team effort lead by senior Ehab Amin.
Payton Pritchard commanded, Kenny Wooten denied and dunked, steady Paul White shined, Louis King came up clutch, Francis Okoro led the huddle, but it was Amin who changed the game.
Amin was a complete pest. The guard shot a perfect 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, scoring 12 total points, grabbing six rebounds, with two assists and three steals. His true impact isn’t shown on the stat sheet; he drew charges, forced 10-second violations, snagged saves from going out of bounds, provided needed energy and was a constant nuisance to the No. 13 Anteaters (31-16).
"I can't emphasize enough how fun it is to play with my teammates and brothers right now," said Amin. "This run has been incredible, and I'm grateful for each one of them, and it's so much fun getting to do it with them."
Oregon’s defense dictated the first 20 minutes of the game. The Ducks owned the 50-50 balls, out-hustling UC Irvine, forcing eight UCI turnovers and scoring 12 points off those turnovers in the first half alone.
The three-point shooting was the difference maker for Oregon, going 6-of-12 from beyond the arc in the first half while the Anteaters only made one basket from three. Oregon finished at 52 percent, 13-of-25, from three.
Up 14 points at halftime, Oregon’s offense went stagnant; enduring a scoring drought for seven minutes while the Anteaters went on a 14-point run to tie the game. The Anteaters weren’t going down without a fight and the Ducks missed 11 straight.
Wooten woke up the team with, what else… a nasty block. Oregon hit four straight buckets, including three from beyond the arc, and never lost the lead again.
Maybe the second most entertaining player in the NCAA Tournament (Hello, Zion), Wooten blocked seven shots, which is the most blocks in an NCAA Tournament game, second only to Jordan Bell’s eight blocks vs. Kansas in 2017. The sophomore added 12 points, awed the crowd with alley-oops, grabbed eight rebounds and a steal. Wooten has blocked 10 shots in Oregon’s two tournament games.
Pritchard’s dominance continued, leading all scorers with 18 points and adding seven assists. The junior guard has 171 assists this season, tying for sixth in a single-season at Oregon.
King added 16 points and provided huge bursts of momentum with his clutch shooting.
Oregon is the last Pac-12 school standing in the big dance. In the history of the NCAA Tournament, a total of twenty No. 12 seeded teams have made the Sweet Sixteen. The Ducks are the first school to ever advance to the Sweet Sixteen twice as a No. 12 seed (2013).
"We don’t want to go into the Sweet Sixteen and lay an egg,” Pritchard told reporters after the game. “We want to go in there and fight."
Not to be overlooked, the victory tied Dana Altman with Ernie Kent as the winningest coach in Oregon history (235 wins). Kent was 235-173 over thirteen seasons at Oregon while Altman is currently 235-95 in his ninth season.
On a 10-game winning streak, the Ducks (25-12) will face top-seeded Virginia (31-3) in Louisville, Kentucky on Thursday at 7 p.m.