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March 24, 2013

Sweet 16: Ducks defy seeding

The Oregon Ducks did the improbable on Saturday. The 12th-seeded Ducks won their second upset victory in the NCAA tournament, this time over Atlantic-10 champion and 4th-seeded Saint Louis, 74-57 in the Round of 32 of the Midwest Regional in San Jose, California.

Like their 68-55 Round of 64 win against 5th-seeded Oklahoma State and Big-12 Player of the Year Marcus Smart on Thursday, Oregon dominated action in both halves of the game.

For head coach Dana Altman this was his first time bringing his new team to the Big Dance despite having been there before 12 other times with other teams, and the last thing he was thinking about after the game was their original tournament seed.

"I'm very excited for our basketball team, in particular the seniors who really led us, did a great job setting the tone with the boards in defense," said Altman.

Seniors E.J. Singler, Arsalan Kazemi and Carlos Emory were indeed crucial, combining for 36 points and 23 rebounds.

High scorer was a freshman however with 23.

"Dot (Damyean Dotson) played great today," said Altman. "He just hit open shots and guys made him shots. It was a team effort."

Saint Louis coach Jim Crews took note of the Oregon freshman as well.

"He's a good athlete," said Crews of Dotson. "He's got great touch. We didn't get him off of shot spots like we wanted to. And sometimes it looked like we had pretty good pressure on him."

For his part, the 6-foot-5 Yates (Houston, Texas) high school product simply says he was following orders.

"I'm just trying to stay aggressive, offense and defense, and just to do whatever Coach tells me," said Dotson. "He tells me to shoot the catch and shoots, and that's what I've been doing. And just try stay aggressive and be a good teammate for my team and do whatever Coach wants me to."

For senior forward Arsalan Kazemi, Saturday was another stellar day on the glass as the 6-foot-7 power forward tallied 16 rebounds, following a 17 rebound performance Thursday against Oklahoma State.

"It is the NCAA tournament," explained Kazemi. "In general I'm not selfish, though, but if I had a little bit in me, I just left it aside. I told myself I can get a rebound for my team, and right now is not the time. It's a big stage. Some players come and try to show people what they can do and what they can't do. I said I can help my team with rebounding, and I'm going to go out and get as many rebounds as possible. And I think I'm helping my team by giving them a chance to get wins."

In the locker room after the game, the Saint Louis head man had nothing but praise for his counterpart at Oregon.

"Dana has been a winner everywhere he's been," said Crews. "He does a great job. He gets kids to really play hard. He gets them to play together. He has a very, very sound system of play, both offensively and defensively. They couldn't get a better guy or a better coach at Oregon and his success doesn't surprise me one iota."

For Altman it was all about his players.

"I'm excited but, man, it's just great to get to see those guys in the locker room all fired up," beamed Altman. "And for our fans that have waited for this. And for our state, it's good. I'm excited, our players are excited. I hope our fans are, because this team has really come a long way since we started practice October 12th, and with really good guys. I'm really happy for them."

For the Ducks it does not get any easier, with their Round of 16 game set to tip off Friday against 1st-seeded Louisville.


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