KANSAS CITY - Oregon junior forward Jordan Bell wasn't impressed with Kansas center Landen Lucas. Bell didn't fear future NBA first-round draft pick, Josh Jackson. Bell certainly had few concerns about Jayhawks' stalwarts, Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham.
But they all certainly had Bell on their minds during the Ducks' 74-60 win over Kansas in the Midwest Regional finals of the NCAA Tournament Saturday night at the Sprint Center.
Bell, Oregon's lone impact big man with senior Chris Boucher (knee) out, completely disrupted, discombobulated and destroyed Kansas' offense and interior defense with 11 points, 13 rebounds (seven offensive, helping UO get 13 second-chance points) and a whopping eight blocked shots. Oh, and Bell added four assists (there were also four turnovers, but we don't need to get into that) just for good measure.
Still, the MVP of the Midwest Region didn't appear to be completely satisfied with his play during an upset win that sent the Ducks to the Final Four.
“I think I played alright," Bell said. "I let a couple of layups get in.”
Nobody is perfect. Kansas (31-5) will only remember all the shots they missed while shooting 35 percent on the night and 28.1 percent in the second half.
The Ducks (33-5) played great team defense, but the undeniable factor was Bell, who from the outset made it know that anyone who ventured into the paint with the basketball ran the high risk of having their shot sent back with a vengeance. Bell intimated Kansas so much that it became clear they were looking for him at all times, even when Jayhawks got inside for good looks.
“From the get-go he was altering shots, blocking shots, just flying around," UO junior guard Casey Benson said. "He brought so much energy tonight...I’ve seen Jordan play some good games but that might be the best I’ve ever seen him play, to be honest with you."
Bell said he didn't believe he changed Kansas' game plan, and he is correct.
“They kept going," he pointed out. "They’re great offensive players over there. I don’t really think I changed their mind (about going inside). I mean, they kept going and I had eight blocks.”
On the other hand, Bell certainly altered Kansas' confidence inside.
"He controlled and anchored their defense very well, and I certainly understand why he was (defensive) player of the year in the Pac-12," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "But even with that being said, there were numerous times where I thought especially when we got to the bonus relatively early in the second half that we could have done a better job of trying to draw fouls driving the ball as opposed to shooting so many semi or guarded threes that we came up empty on.
Maybe so, but few shots were falling from anywhere for Kansas, which made just five of 25 three-point attempts. What killed the Jayhawks were the many short shots and potential layups that Bell either rejected or altered just enough to make them bounce off the rim.
"That may have been his best performance in his three years," UO coach Dana Altman said. "He was phenomenal today. He set the tone early. I thought that was really important. I said in the locker room that he played like we had Chris and him out there. He dominated inside."
Although Bell remembered the imperfections in his game, he also saw the good.
“I think this is the best I’ve ever played in college basketball," Bell said. "I shine in big moments like this.”
He simply believes, frighteningly so, that he could play even better.