Dana Altman

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield celebrates after scoring during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon in the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Buddy Hield leads No. 2 Oklahoma’s demolition of No. 1 Oregon

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With No. 1 Oregon and No. 2 Oklahoma being the top two seeds in the West Region, it was fair to assume that the matchup would be a close one. Lon Kruger’s Sooners, most especially national Player of the Year favorite Buddy Hield, had other ideas however. Hield scored 37 points to lead Oklahoma to their first Final Four appearance since 2002, as they soundly defeated the Ducks by the final score of 80-68.

Hield scored his 37 points on 13-for-20 shooting from the field, making eight of his 13 attempts from beyond the arc. The two-time Big 12 Player of the Year did finish with six turnovers, and if not for those miscues one has to wonder just how many points Hield could have scored. Dana Altman tried a variety of looks defensively, including a matchup zone and man-to-man, but to no avail.

Essentially, Oregon experienced a feeling that many teams faced with the task of slowing down Hield have felt this season: powerlessness.

But to boil this game down to “they had Buddy and Oregon didn’t” would be far too simplistic an approach to take. In addition to being one of the nation’s best offensive teams, Oklahoma’s also ranked 14th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers.

They don’t do it with pressure defense, but the Sooners do a good job of keeping opponents out of the lane and forcing them to make tough shots. That’s what happened to Oregon, which shot 38.9 percent from the field and 4-for-21 from beyond the arc. Oregon had turnover issues early, and that combined with Hield’s 17-point first half resulted in an 18-point halftime hole that was too much for the Pac-12 champions to climb out of.

Elgin Cook finished with 24 points to lead three Oregon players in double figures, but far too often the Ducks lacked the fluidity on offense that was a trademark of many of their 31 wins on the season.

Lon Kruger’s team has shown throughout the season that, while Hield is certainly their feature option, this is no one-man operation. On nights when Hield wasn’t as efficient with his shooting others stepped forward, such as Jordan Woodard in Thursday’s win over Texas A&M (his most recent act) and Isaiah Cousins on multiple occasions as well. That wasn’t the case Saturday as tose two combined to shoot just 7-for-20 from the field, scoring 24 points, but Cousins dished out a game-high seven assists and freshman guard Christian James chipped in with ten rebounds off the bench as well.

Five of James’ rebounds came on the offensive end, and those second-chance opportunities (OU finished with an offensive rebounding percentage of 43.8 percent) proved costly in the first half. Those contributions, along with the front court tandem of Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin, are why Oklahoma can win two more games once in Houston.

That all being said, Saturday night was all about the latest virtuoso performance from a player whose hard work in Norman has paid off. As a freshman Hield was thought to be more valuable as a perimeter defender, as he averaged 7.8 points per game and shot just 38.8 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from three with a shooting stroke that needed a lot of work. Going from that to a junior season in which he won Big 12 Player of the Year for the first time, it made sense that Hield would entertain thoughts of turning pro.

But the combination of a second-round grade from NBA execs and the “unfinished business” of wanting to get to a Final Four led to Hield deciding to return from his senior season. Hield will step onto the Final Four stage next weekend, and he’ll be joined by a cast of teammates who themselves have shown the ability to step forward when needed.

No. 1 Oregon beats Duke, advances to first Elite Eight since 2007

Duke guard Brandon Ingram shoots between Oregon forward Jordan Bell, right, and forward Dillon Brooks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 24, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The first weekend of the NCAA tournament wasn’t particularly kind to the Pac-12, as six of their seven entrants were eliminated. The lone team standing was Oregon, the top seed in the West and the best team the Pac-12 had to offer. Dana Altman’s team has the athleticism and versatility needed to make its way to Houston, and Thursday night those attributes along with the team’s willingness to pass the ball was on display in their 82-68 win over No. 4 Duke.

Dillon Brooks led five Ducks in double figures with 22 points while also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out six assists, and as a team Oregon assisted on 22 of its 38 made field goals. Oregon can attack teams in a variety of ways offensively thanks to the versatility of players such as Brooks, Elgin Cook and Tyler Dorsey, and if not for a number of missed dunks the margin Thursday night would have been worse.

Duke’s had issues defensively due in large part to their lack of depth, which makes it difficult to shift strategies when one approach isn’t working. Duke went zone for part of the second half, and Oregon managed to find quality looks though sound ball movement and player movement off the basketball.

Oregon finished the game shooting 49.2 percent from the field, but they were much better on that end of the floor in the game’s final 20 minutes.

And of all the offensive options at Altman’s disposal the one who doesn’t receive enough credit is sophomore point guard Casey Benson, whose improvement throughout the season has been a key for Oregon. Almost deferential to a fault when it came to taking open shots at the start of the year, Benson’s been better as the season’s progressed at picking his spots while continuing to distribute the ball in an efficient manner.

Against Duke, Benson finished with 11 points, eight assists and just one turnover. That one turnover raised Benson’s total for the season to 23, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is a very good 4.65:1. The injured Dylan Ennis was expected to be the man at the point when the season began, but the play of Benson has ensured that Oregon did not miss a beat this season.

Oregon has an eight-man rotation that appears to be even deeper thanks to their versatility, and against Duke the Ducks took advantage of that throughout the night. The offense was good but so was the defense, with Jordan Bell (13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks) and Chris Boucher serving as deterrents at the rim and the changes between man and a matchup zone keeping the Blue Devils off balance.

They’ll need a similar effort against Oklahoma Saturday, but there should be no more questions as to whether or not Oregon’s capable.

No. 8 Oregon holds on for 95-89 OT win over No. 15 Arizona

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, right, reacts with guards Tyler Dorsey (5) and Casey Benson (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men's tournament Friday, March 11, 2016, in Las Vegas. Oregon won in overtime, 95-89. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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LAS VEGAS (AP) Elgin Cook scored 22 points and No. 8 Oregon survived a wild closing sequence in regulation to beat No. 15 Arizona 95-89 in overtime Friday night in the Pac-12 semifinals.

Oregon (27-6) led by 17 early in the second half, but Arizona (25-8) charged back and tied it in improbable fashion.

Oregon’s Chris Boucher missed two free throws with 12 seconds left, and Arizona’s Gabe York followed with a 3-pointer after gathering a rebound. Mark Tollefsen stole the inbound pass and was fouled, but hit just 1 of 2 free throws to send the game to overtime.

The Ducks dominated overtime, going up six on 3-pointers by Dwayne Benjamin and Dillon Brooks to earn a spot in Saturday night’s championship game against No. 24 California or No. 12 Utah.

Tyler Dorsey had 19 points and Brooks 17 for the Ducks, who had 11 blocked shots and 10 steals.

No. 8 Oregon holds off Washington 83-77 at Pac-12

Oregon forward Elgin Cook, from left, forward Dillon Brooks and guard Tyler Dorsey react after a play against Washington during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinal round of the Pac-12 men's tournament Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Las Vegas. Oregon won 83-77. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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LAS VEGAS (AP) Chris Boucher had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 8 Oregon withstood a late flurry to hold off Washington 83-77 in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals Thursday.

Top-seeded Oregon (26-6) built an 11-point lead midway through the second half, but Andrew Andrews brought the Huskies back with a quick scoring flurry. The senior guard scored 10 of his 19 points during the run, helping eighth-seeded Washington (18-14) pull within two late.

The Ducks held, though, hitting four free throws in the final 33 seconds to earn a spot in Friday night’s semifinals against No. 15 Arizona or Colorado.

Elgin Cook scored 19 points, Tyler Dorsey 17 and Dillon Brooks added 15 for the Ducks.

Marques Chriss scored 19 points for the Huskies.

The Ducks closed the regular season strong, winning their final five games for their first conference title since 2002. One of those finishing wins was against Washington on Feb. 28, when Cook scored 26 points in the 86-73 victory.

The Huskies put a dent in their NCAA Tournament hopes by limping to the finish, but kept a glimmer of hope alive with a rout over Stanford in the tournament’s opening round.

Washington got off to fast start against the Cardinal and kept rolling against Oregon, hitting 10 of its first 13 shots – four of those 3s – to go up 26-14.

Oregon was ragged early, forcing shots and passes in traffic, riling coach Dana Altman with numerous defensive breakdowns.

The Ducks settled down and started flying, harassing the Huskies into difficult shots, scoring in transition after turnovers and misses during an 11-0 run that helped them take a 39-38 halftime lead.

But after all the 3-pointers and soaring dunks, the second half turned into a defensive wrestling match, with bodies hitting the floor nearly every trip.

The Ducks gained a little separation midway through, when Dorsey hit a 3 and Dwayne Benjamin scored on a three-point play to put Oregon up 64-54.

Andrews brought the Huskies back. He hit a pair of 3-pointers and turned a steal into a pair of free throws that cut Oregon’s lead to 71-69 with 5 minutes left.

Washington kept the Ducks within reach from there, but never could catch them.

TIP INS

Washington: David Crisp, who made just four 3-pointers February, had three in the first half. … Dejounte Murray and Malik Dime had 13 points each.

Oregon: Boucher became the first player in Pac-12 history with 100 blocked shots and 30 3-pointers in a season. … The Ducks had a 46-33 rebounding edge.

WHAT’S NEXT

Washington will have to sweat out Selection Sunday to find out if it will get an NCAA Tournament invite.

Oregon will face No. 15 Arizona or Colorado in the semifinals Friday night.

No. 9 Oregon continues to strengthen case for one seed

Oregon's Dwayne Benjamin, right, dunks the ball over Southern California's Chimezie Metu, left, during the first of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
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Given how unpredictable this season has been, the discussion of which four teams will receive one-seeds in the NCAA tournament has been a lively one. No. 1 Kansas looks to be in good shape, as they’ve won 11 straight games and the outright regular season title in a conference many consider to be the best in the country. After that a number of teams have been mentioned for the top line, and No. 9 Oregon certainly has a good case of their own.

Dana Altman’s Ducks wrapped up the outright Pac-12 regular season title with a 76-66 win at USC Saturday afternoon. Oregon navigated injury issues throughout their non-conference schedule, and against the Trojans they had to navigate a 25-minute delay thanks to a power outage at the Galen Center.

And if those injuries, the most notable of which being Dylan Ennis’ broken foot that ended his season after just two games, couldn’t kill Oregon’s momentum a power outage wasn’t going to either. And the same can be said of the off days experienced by forwards Dylan Brooks and Chris Boucher, who combined for eight points on 2-for-12 shooting from the field.

As has been the case throughout the season, other players stepped forward for Oregon as they fought off a second-half challenge from the Trojans.

Freshman Tyler Dorsey led four Ducks in double figures with 19 points, shooting 8-for-11 from the field, and Elgin Cook added 17 while also grabbing 12 rebounds. And with reserves Dwayne Benjamin and Jordan Bell combining to contribute 24 points and eight rebounds off the bench, Oregon had more than enough to cover for the off days experienced by Brooks and Boucher.

The Ducks have a seven-man rotation, but the versatility possessed by many of those players can make the team appear deeper than they actually are. Brooks, Cook and Benjamin can all score on multiple levels at the forward spots, and Boucher’s even shown the ability to step out away from the basket on occasion. Dorsey’s performed well both on and off the ball in the backcourt, and Casey Benson’s developed into a point guard more willing to take shots that become available to him as the season’s progressed.

That all adds up to a team that is the Pac-12’s best heading into the conference tournament in Las Vegas. And to this point, Oregon’s put together a good case to be on the top line when the NCAA tournament bracket is revealed a week from Sunday.

With their win over USC, Oregon’s now 10-3 against the RPI Top 50 (four wins against teams ranked in the RPI Top 25) and their schedule is ranked as the fifth-toughest in the country. As for the losses to UNLV and Boise State (which is an RPI Top 100 team) in non-conference play, Oregon wasn’t at full strength in either game. Both Bell and Dorsey missed the loss to UNLV due to injury, with Bell making his season debut against Boise State while Dorsey remained sidelined.

They have the computer numbers and the quality wins to back those stats up. And if Oregon can win the Pac-12 tournament, they’ll have an even stronger case for a one-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Shot selection, sluggish play costs No. 11 Oregon at Stanford

Oregon's Tyler Dorsey (5) is defended by Stanford's Christian Sanders during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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Entering this week it appeared as if the question of “who’s the best team in the Pac-12” had a clear answer. No. 11 Oregon sat atop the standings in first place, and with one of the conference’s favorites for Player of the Year in Dillon Brooks leading the way Dana Altman’s Ducks looked to be approaching “elite” status. After the Ducks’ 0-2 weekend in the Bay Area, it’s time to slow down with the “elite” chatter.

Two nights after getting blown out at California the Ducks lost again, this time failing to complete their comeback attempt at Stanford as the Cardinal won 76-72.

Rosco Allen scored 25 points and grabbed seven boards for the Cardinal, shooting 9-for-12 from the field and not struggling all that much to get the looks he preferred. Allen hit shots from all three levels, at the rim, in the mid-range game and from deep, and so did his teammates. As a team Stanford shot 55.3 percent from the field and 9-for-13 from three, with Christian Sanders accounting for ten of the team’s 18 assists and Grant Verhoeven (13 points) and Dorian Pickens (16) chipping in as well.

Oregon, on the other hand, once again got away from the things that have made them so successful offensively. Working to get the best possible shot has worked quite well for the Ducks, given their many offensive options who can score from just about anywhere on the floor. Against Stanford 27 of Oregon’s field goal attempts were three-pointers, far too high a percentage for a team with scoring options such as Brooks, Elgin Cook, Tyler Dorsey and Chris Boucher.

Oregon settled until late in the second half, resulting in a deficit that proved too large to fully erase.

Winning on the road is tough, especially in a conference in which three teams (Arizona, Oregon and Utah) have managed to pick up a road sweep this season. But that can’t result in a team losing sight of what has made it so successful for much of the season. That appeared to be the case for Oregon in their two games in the Bay Area.

The good news for Oregon is that they have the talent needed to ensure that this is but a minor blip on the radar, a weekend that can be used to refocus on what made them the team many pegged as the best in the Pac-12 a week ago. The negative: as a result of this weekend Oregon’s margin for error is now gone, with two-time defending champion Arizona leading the charge.