Oregon Ducks

No. 3 Oregon advances after thriller with No. 7 Michigan

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Oregon is returning to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season following a thrilling, 69-68, victory over No. 7 Michigan in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City on Thursday night.

In a game in which neither team could fully grasp control of the game, it came down to the wire. Michigan held a 3-point lead with two minutes to play. Jordan Bell, who was unquestionably the deciding factor in this contest, came up with the first of several critical hustle plays down the stretch. He knifed in on a missed free throw, for the second-chance bucket, cutting the deficit to one.

On the ensuing Michigan possession, Bell didn’t block it but affected Derrick Walton Jr.’s shot enough to force the miss. Tyler Dorsey, the other hero for the Ducks, continued his stellar play this month with a go-ahead layup after he spun through the Wolverine defense. Bell’s close out on D.J. Wilson sent his 3-point attempt way off the mark. Bell would corral another offensive rebound on the other end of the floor, and while Dylan Ennis left the door open for Michigan following another missed free throw, Bell, deservedly, rebounded Walton’s miss as time ran out.

“Do whatever you can to win,” Bell told reporters after the game. “Me, get every rebound, offense or defense, help my team out as much as possible.”

Bell had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Dorsey poured in 20 points. Walton Jr., who front-rimmed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, ended his collegiate career with stat-line of 20 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Zak Irvin added 19.

Dillon Brooks is without a doubt the star, but Bell and Dorsey round out a big three that could lead the Ducks to Phoenix.

Before the start of the Pac-12 Tournament championship game on March 11, Oregon announced that Chris Boucher would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. How would this effect Oregon’s defense days before it began its quest for a Final Four?

Bell has helped answer those questions on Thursday night. He’s a big reason why Oregon outscored Michigan, 34-16, in points in the paint. But his greatest impact was how he slowed down the two-headed monster of Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson, two forwards whose increased production is a big reason why Michigan’s unlikely run extended into the second weekend of the tournament. The duo scored a combined 19 points off 7-of-20 shooting.

The other for Oregon was the continued offensive tear of Dorsey. In six postseason games, the sophomore two-guard is averaging 23.0 points per game. He went toe-to-toe with Walton, who was playing as good as any guard in the country, in the final minutes and got the better of the battle. Playing at this level, Oregon has another go-to scorer, one who has no issue taking a big shot late in the game. In either matchup in the next round, that should come in handy. Dillon Brooks, one of college’s toughest matchups, will either be busy with Purdue’s massive frontline or locked in an all-out war with Kansas’ Josh Jackson the perimeter.

“I’m really fortunate to have Jordan for three years and Tyler for two and Dillon Brooks,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We’ve just been really fortunate. We’ve got good players and guys that are unselfish. They want to win. They’re competitive. We got down four there and guys could have gave into it. They didn’t. They fought their way back. Shows you what kind of competitive spirit they’ve got.”

The Ducks, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region, will face the winner of top-seeded Kansas and No. 4 Purdue on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.

“We know Purdue is really big and Kansas is Kansas,” Altman said.

VIDEO: Brooks hits 3-pointer with 0.2 left to lift Oregon past Cal

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Dillon Brooks did it earlier against UCLA. Wednesday, he added Cal to his list.

The Oregon junior hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.2 left on the clock to give the sixth-ranked Ducks a 68-65 victory over the Bears after trailing by as many as 16 in the second half.

It’s the second time this season that Brooks, who finished with 22 points, has hit a game-winning three, and this one keeps the Ducks within a game of first-place Arizona in the Pac-12 standings.

The bigger story here may actually be Cal, as the Golden Bears gave away a 15-point lead in the final 10 minutes and a 10-point lead in the final five minutes in a game they desperately needed to win for their at-large résumé. Cal is just 1-7 against the RPI top 50 this season, and while they don’t have any bad losses to their name, this was their last chance to land a marquee win before the Pac-12 tournament.

I don’t think they’re in danger of missing the dance just yet, but I would not recommend tempting fate and losing down the stretch of the season.

Four Takeaways: Tenth-ranked UCLA knocks off No. 5 Oregon

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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UCLA finally defended.

The 10th-ranked Bruins stymied No. 5 Oregon down the stretch to defeat the Ducks, 82-79, in a game in which they trailed by as many as 19 points.

Lonzo Ball was brilliant in the final minutes of the game, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds while defending Oregon’s Dillon Brooks on the other end.

The Ducks, who shot 48.7 percent in the first half, made just 33.3 percent of their shots in the second half and were just two of their last 13 as UCLA completed the comeback.

UCLA’s win is a bit of revenge after its undefeated start to the season came to an end in Eugene in late December on a Brooks game-winning 3.

Brooks and Tyler Dorsey both had 19 points for the Ducks, whose loss leaves Arizona atop the Pac-12 standings.

Here’s what you need to know from Westwood on Thursday night:

 

1. UCLA…defended?: Overall, Oregon scored 1.162 points per possession, which isn’t going to make it seem like the Bruins did a whole heck of a lot to slow the Ducks. But make no mistake, the Bruins absolutely buckled down and took Oregon absolutely out of what it wanted to accomplish down the stretch.

The Ducks made just two of their last 13 shots, had only 10 second-half field goals and had just 10 points in the last 8 minutes.

UCLA kept Oregon from getting into its offense early, which totally derailed the Ducks after a scintillating start to the game. Oregon just didn’t have an answer for UCLA was doing defensively.

What a world.

Now, the question for the Bruins is was it a fluke, matchup specific or something they can build on going forward? Their offense, as everyone knows, is as dynamic and electric as any in the country, and maybe one of the best in recent years. The defense, though, well, it’s been bad, bad, bad.

If this is an indication of moving toward average, that’s a game-changer. It doesn’t make them any more dangerous than they already are – their shooting makes them frightening to any opponent – but it does make them more formidable.

 

2. Lonzo Ball is that dude: The freshman was pretty pedestrian, at least by his standards, through the early going, putting up just four shots en route to five first-half points as UCLA fell behind by 19 points in the first half.

In the final 10 minutes of the game, though, Ball was beautiful. He made four of five shots – including a 30-footer with 32 seconds left – that help buoy the Bruins offense down the stretch and keeping Oregon at bay. He also had seven second-half rebounds. From the point guard position.

On the other end of the floor, Ball was instrumental in UCLA’s sudden defensive stoutness. He switched over to man-up on Dillon Brooks and kept the Ducks star in check late.

UCLA has a ton of weapons all over the floor, but Ball is what makes the whole thing go. When he fades into the background, the Bruins struggle to make it to their highest gear. When he’s at the center of the action, look out, defenses.

 

3. Oregon’s play was perplexing but not problematic: When the Ducks lost at Colorado last month, it raised some eyebrows. The Buffs aren’t exactly the most intimidating or accomplished group, yet somehow had Oregon, which was then riding a 17-game winning streak, down double-digits late. When Oregon found itself in a slog, albeit a win, against Arizona State, there was some questions about what was going on in Eugene.

Of course, the Ducks silenced any doubters by absolutely roasting Arizona, and this latest loss shouldn’t arouse any worries, either.

Sure, blowing a 19-point lead isn’t great, but a 19-point lead against UCLA isn’t like a 19-point lead against most teams given UCLA’s ability to fill it up.

The Ducks are – and will be – fine.

That’s not to say those last 10 minutes don’t raise some concerns.

UCLA absolutely defended its guts out and deserve praise, but Oregon looked totally perplexed and stymied. The Ducks are too good, too experienced and too versatile to not have an answer for that long.

4. Ducks interior D withers: On the other side of the floor is another, likely impermanent, concern for Oregon.

The Ducks are typically one of the stoutest interior defenses in the country, allowing opponents to shoot just 45 percent inside the arc while leading the country in block percentage.

In the second half, UCLA was able to do a ton of damage inside. The Bruins shot 56.5 percent on 2-pointers and had 20 of their 43 points in the paint. Meanwhile, Oregon had just one block for the whole game.

The Ducks have been too good for too long this season inside to think this is any sort of red flag going forward, but it does help explain how a 19-point lead went up in smoke.

Brooks scores 19 in return as No. 10 Oregon tops Utah

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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Whatever the immediate concerns were about Dillon Brooks’ foot, they appear to be moot.

Brooks looks to be just fine.

The Oregon junior scored 19 points, had two rebounds and three assists in No. 10 Oregon’s 73-67 win over Utah on Thursday after missing Saturday’s win over Stanford with a foot sprain.

The sprain, of course, wasn’t really the fear about Brooks’ foot. It was the surgery he had on that same foot that kept him off the court all summer and for the first three games of this season. Oregon is Final Four good with Brooks. Returning after just one game away suggests that the issue truly was minor.

It certainly didn’t look like the foot was problematic for him against the Utes, unless there’s something specific about the injury that impairs his ability to flop with any sense of dignity. Brooks looked as explosive and dynamic as ever, and Dana Altman had no problem starting and playing him for 36 minutes. Brooks was 7 of 15 from the floor and struggled shooting from distance with a 1 of 6 evening.

The Ducks continue to stomp their way through the schedule, having now won 17-straight games. Its setting up for an extremely entertaining Pac-12 race as Arizona also is undefeated in league play. And you can’t forget about UCLA, even if the Bruins have two league losses.

For Utah, the loss was another missed opportunity for a team that hasn’t been able to record high-level wins this season. They don’t have a victory over a current KenPom top-50 team, though other than an a befuddling loss to San Francisco, they haven’t lost to a team rated worse than 29th in KenPom.

The Utes have lost to Oregon and UCLA at home by a combined seven points, and they don’t have a home game remaining this season against a KenPom top-50 team. If they’re going to get a signature win or two this season, it’ll have to come away from Salt Lake City.

 

No. 11 Oregon blows by Cal, but Dillon Brooks leaves with “lower left leg injury”

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Oregon defeated Cal on Thursday. The score was 86-63. That hardly matters, though, considering what else occurred in Eugene.

Ducks star Dillon Brooks left the game with a “lower left leg injury,” which is particularly ominous considering it was a surgically repaired left foot that sidelined Brooks all summer and kept him from joining Oregon on the floor until mid-November.

As of Thursday evening, there was no specific clarification, leaving only questions not only about Brooks’ health but what Oregon will have to potentially do without him.

The Ducks can win without Brooks. They went 8-1 before Brooks ever logged 30 minutes in a game and blasted Washington State in Pullman when Brooks got ejected after just seven minutes. They didn’t need him to dismantle the Bears, shooting 58 percent from the floor for the game and 54.2 percent without him in the second half. Jordan Bell made 11 of 12 shots for a career-best 26 points, and three other Ducks scored in double figures.

It wouldn’t be ideal, but Oregon could tread water to a high seed with him missing a chunk of time as they’ve shown at different times throughout this season. The Ducks only have one matchup left with both UCLA and Arizona, coming back-to-back in the first week of February.

But if it’s a serious injury, it necessitates a recalibration of expectation for Oregon.

Brooks scored 23 and had the game-winner as the Ducks handled No. 3 UCLA its lone loss this season and had 28 points when they blew out then-No. 22 USC to end December. Brooks is too talented, too versatile and too important for a prolonged absence to be meaningfully weathered. The NCAA tournament just too often demands too much from teams to be without a player of Brooks’ caliber.

For Oregon to reach the heights that many predicted for it since last spring, Brooks has to be on the floor.

The wait for the diagnosis and prognosis, not just for Brooks but for Oregon’s season, is on.

College Basketball Talk Top 25: Villanova is the new No. 1

AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
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1. Villanova (14-0, Last Week: No. 2): It feels like what Villanova is doing this season is still flying under the radar despite the fact that they are undefeated and the No. 1 team in the country while staking claim as the reigning national champions.

2. UCLA (14-1, 3): UCLA lost on the road on a game-winner with 0.7 seconds left to a team that I now have in the top ten, a team that was in the preseason top five before we realized that Dillon Brooks, who is now healthy and mowing down opponents, wasn’t at 100 percent to start the year. I’m not concerned in the least.

3. Kansas (12-1, 4): The Jayhawks survived a scrappy TCU team in their Big 12 opener thanks to a punishing performance from center Landen Lucas. He has suddenly turned into the most important player on the Kansas team now that Udoka Azubuike is out for the year with a wrist injury.

4. Kentucky (11-2, 5): Kentucky put together their most complete performance on the season last week when they beat Ole Miss in Oxford. Isaiah Briscoe put up a triple-double, Bam Adebayo played his best game of the season and Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox did the things that Monk and Fox do.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

5. Duke (12-2, 1): So what do we do with the Blue Devils? I’m still in the camp that says that Duke has the highest ceiling of any team in the country, and I also think we’ve underrated just how good Virginia Tech is this season; the Hokies would be undefeated right now if they hadn’t choked away a loss to Texas A&M in the Wooden Legacy semifinals. This isn’t like Duke going to Boston College and taking a beating.

But Duke still took a beating, and the biggest concern was that the Blue Devils seemed to lack the effort and the intensity to make the plays they needed to make defensively. They almost looked selfish offensively, as the lack of a point guard on that roster was glaring. They played without Grayson Allen, who was serving the first game of his suspension, but the issues Duke had on display were much bigger than Allen.

Put another way, Saturday made me think that Duke may not ever get to their ceiling. But hey, at least Harry Giles III finally scored a point.

(UPDATE: And now Coach K will miss up to a month to recover from back surgery.)

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6. Gonzaga (14-0, 8): The Bulldogs were pushed by both Pacific and Pepperdine this week, but came out unscathed with double-digit wins. There is a real chance that Gonzaga could head into Moraga on Feb. 11th as the lone undefeated team in college basketball.

7. Baylor (14-0, 9): The Bears keep rolling along. On Saturday, they opened up Big 12 play by mollywhopping Oklahoma in Norman. It is going to be fun when the Bears get together with Kansas this season, on Feb. 1st and Feb. 18th.

8. Wisconsin (12-2, 11): While Indiana lost twice last week and Purdue dropped a home game to Minnesota, the Badgers continue to roll along. Since Nigel Hayes made the change to being a point forward, the Badgers have looked like a totally different team.

9. Louisville (12-2, 7): Outside of Duke, Louisville is the hardest team in this poll to rank. They beat Kentucky, but they beat Kentucky by three in a game they were favored by two on their home floor, the same home floor where they were smacked around by Virginia just five days ago. But then the Cardinals turned around and gave Indiana a similar whooping in Indiana. Wherever you have them ranked, here’s what you need to admit: the Cards are, right now, as good as, if not better than any team in the ACC.

10. Oregon (13-2, 21): Oregon vaults up to No. 10 in our poll for one, simple reason: they’re back.

11. West Virginia (12-1, 12)
12. North Carolina (12-3, 6)
13. Creighton (13-1, 10)
14. Florida State (14-1, 25)
15. Virginia (11-2, 18)
16. Xavier (12-2, 16)
17. Saint Mary’s (12-1, 17)
18. Arizona (14-2, 22)
19. Cincinnati (13-2, 20)
20. Butler (12-2, 13)
21. Purdue (12-3, 14)
22. Virginia Tech (12-1, UR)
23. Notre Dame (12-2, 23)
24. USC (14-1, 19)
25. Indiana (10-4, 15)

DROPPED OUT: No. 24 Seton Hall
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Virginia Tech