Ducks advance to Sweet 16
SAN JOSE - Oregon held Saint Louis to 19 first-half points en route to a 16-point lead, then thwarted every Billikens comeback attempt with offensive rebounding and accurate long-range shooting en route to a 74-57 victory Saturday in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional at HP Pavilion.
The win sends the Ducks (28-8), the Midwest's 12th seed, on to the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis, where they'll face overall No. 1 seed Louisville on Friday.
In earning its second Sweet 16 appearance in seven years, Oregon got 23 points from Damyean Dotson and 16 rebounds from Arsalan Kazemi and used a surprisingly effective zone defense to hold the Billikens, which had shot 46.3 percent in its second-round win over New Mexico on Thursday, to just 37.7 percent from the field and 3-for-21 from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Billikens (28-7) missed 17 of their 24 shots, including all 10 of their 3's, in the first half while falling behind 35-19. But when Dwayne Evans opened the second half with a layup and then converted a Mike McCall Jr. steal into another easy hoop, the Atlantic-10 Conference champs suddenly had life.
Saint Louis, however, couldn't take advantage of an Oregon turnover and a missed shot on its next two possessions, matching each with a similar failure of its own.
Then came a back-breaking sequence, when Kazemi rebounded three successive Oregon misses, including one of his own, converting the third offensive board into a layup that ended the Ducks' drought and re-established a 37-23 advantage 2:16 into the half.
The Billikens got within 11 on three other occasions in the first 10 minutes of the half, but never got closer due in equal parts to Oregon's ability to hit shots when it needed and their own failure to capitalize on what little momentum they gathered.
Kazemi, who had seven offensive rebounds in the game, converted another into a key hoop at the 11:35 mark after Saint Louis had gotten within 44-33. The Billikens had had two opportunities to get closer, but had turnovers on both possessions.
Dotson's second 3-pointer of the second half came as part of a 7-0 Oregon run that immediately followed a Jordair Jett steal and layup that once again had gotten the Billikens within 11 at 48-37.
The play could have had disastrous ramifications for the Ducks, whose Carlos Emory hurt his left wrist on a fall while trying to block Jett's shot. Emory, who iced his wrist during a stint on the bench, was later able to return to the game.
Kwamain Mitchell's two free throws stopped Oregon's seven-point run, but when Dotson nailed a third 3 for a 58-39 advantage with just 8:11 to go, the Ducks were able to coast home and set their sights on Indianapolis.
Emory and E.J. Singler added 14 points apiece for the Ducks, who shot 52.8 percent from the field. Dotson made five of his six 3's as Oregon went 8-for-11 from beyond the arc.
Mitchell led Saint Louis with 18 points, but missed five of his seven 3's. Evans hit eight of his 13 shots on a 16-point night, and Jett added 11.
Oregon outrebounded Saint Louis 38-27.
It took Oregon awhile to figure out the tight Saint Louis man-to-man defense, but once the Ducks got rolling, the only thing that could stop them in the first 20 minutes was the halftime horn en route to a shocking 35-19 lead.
Nothing about the first four minutes indicated Oregon could score 19 points in the half, let alone 35. The Ducks failed to score on their first five possessions (three missed shots and two turnovers), and when they turned the ball over a third time, they found themselves behind 7-2 just 4:15 into the game.
But then things turned around big time. Oregon, 1 of 4 from the field at that point, went on to make 14 of its last 21 shots in the half, including four of its last five 3-pointers. Perhaps the biggest blow was delivered by point guard Johnathan Loyd, who nailed a 24-foot 3-pointer just before the halftime horn to make it a 16-point game and send the large Oregon contingent into a frenzy.
Emory led the Ducks with 10 points in the first half, hitting 4 of 6 shots from the field. Dotson converted 4 of 5 from the field, including a 3-pointer, for nine points.
The Billikens, meanwhile, had no answer for Oregon's zone defense. They settled for 3-pointers 10 times, failing to make one.
Evans was the only Saint Louis player to make more than one shot from the field in the half, going 3 of 4 en route to a team-high six points. His teammates combined to go 4 of 20 from the floor and the Billikens shot 29.2 percent.
NOTES: The meeting was just the second between Oregon and Saint Louis. Their only previous game came in the Far West Classic in Portland in 1976, with Oregon winning 59-55. ... Singler entered the game as the winningest player in Oregon history with 88 career victories. ... Saint Louis was bidding to reach the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. ... Saint Louis, which had only 19 points at halftime, was held below 60 points just three times all season, beating Richmond in one of those games but losing the others to Kansas and Temple.