Ducks survive Cinderella vs. Cinderella slugfest to advance
Two Cinderellas went to a dance in San Jose, and a brawl broke out for the glass slipper and an invitation to a Sweet Sixteen party next weekend.
Sunday night in San Jose the 12th-seeded Oregon Ducks defeated the University of Cal-Irvine 73-54 to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament, winning after building a 35-23 halftime lead and overcoming an Anteater surge to start the second half.
The Ducks will meet number one seed Virginia in Louisville on Thursday March 28, 6:59 PM PT on TBS. The Cavaliers beat Oklahoma 63-51.
Junior point guard Payton Pritchard continued his stellar late-season play to spark the win. He chipped in 18 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists. Louis King added 16 points on 4-7 shooting beyond the arc.
Kenny Wooten paced a strong defensive effort with 7 blocks. Oregon held the Anteaters to 40% shooting. Wooten's presence in the middle discouraged UCI's inside game as he added 11 points and 8 rebounds as well.
In all the Ducks were 13-25 on three-pointers while contesting nearly every UCI shot from the same distance, holding their opponents to 5-18 (27%)
It's Oregon's fourth trip to the Sweet 16 in this decade. Dana Altman has coached his squad at least this far in 2013, 2016, 2017 in addition to this season.
As has been the case all through their 10-game winning streak, defense fueled the winning effort. The Ducks held the Anteaters to 30% shooting in the first half, 1-7 from three point range.
They opened a 17-8 lead early off 3-pointers by Will Richardson and Paul White, White's coming off a nifty pass from Payton Pritchard.
Rebounding kept UCI in the game despite the Webfoot's tenacious effort on defense. They held a 21-14 edge on the boards at the break. something that cried out for an adjustment.
Effort plays highlighted Oregon's 12-point halftime bulge. Ehab Amin made a remarkable save under the basket, leaning way forward almost perpendicular to the floor and heaving the ball into front court. It set up a second-chance Pritchard lay-in. Amin later connected on a 3-ball, fed by Pritchard, to make it 33-19.
Kenny Wooten had a pair of thunderous blocks in the first half. On the second he skied high to deny Max Hazzard in the paint.
The Ducks had 10 points off turnovers in the first half, the Anteaters just two.
The second half started poorly for Oregon. Francis Okoro quickly drew his third foul and had to go to the bench. UCI guard Robert Cartwright buried a three, Tommy Rutherford squirted inside for a lay-up, and a once-comfortable lead was cut to 7 at 35-28.
The Ducks turned it over twice on their next possessions. Evan Leonard of UCI swished another three and the lead shriveled to 35-31. Altman quickly called a red-faced timeout.
An 8-0 run to start the half, and the Ducks needed a momentum-buster. Instead, they committed another turnover, and UCI converted a pair of lay-ups to tie the score. Oregon still had not scored in the second half.
Another lay-up by Cartwright gave UCI their first lead of the game at 37-35. A charging foul on Paul White sent him to the bench, and the Ducks still had not found the basket with 12:35 remaining in the second half.
Finally, Pritchard found an open Amin for a 3-point attempt, and he sunk it to get the Ducks back on top at 38-37. Eight full minutes went by before UO could find the basket.
Pritchard dished to King for another trey to inch the Ducks back up to a four-point margin, 41-37 and a TV timeout.
Out of the break, a charge on UCI got Oregon the ball again. Louis King got fouled on a floater in the lane and made both free throws. Ducks up by six.
Evan Leonard picked up a block shot and turned it into an easy three, but Pritchard answered with a pretty step-back three of his own, getting untracked with a key basket. 46-40 Oregon.
He weaved through traffic for a tough lay-in to extend the lead to eight. UCI gave the ball back with a missed connection on a pass inside. 8:31 left. Wooten grabbed an offensive rebound and hammered home a dunk for a ten-point lead, adding an exclamation point at the other end with a block on Hazzard's three-point attempt.
The Ducks led by ten with 7:58 to play at a TV timeout, both teams at six fouls and in the bonus.
Irvine got a lay-up from Rutherford, but Pritchard, feeling it now, buried a long three-pointer to make it 53-42.