Ducks ready to shock the hoops world

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Keep on believin' because Oregon will accept nothing less than what it feels about itself.

And with that attitude, who knows what this team can accomplish in the NCAA Tournament.

"I think we can go all the way, we can win the whole thing," Duck freshman Dominic Artis said. "That was our mentality coming into the tournament. We're trying to go all the way."

Uh, but next up is Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed in the entire tournament.

"I'm ready for it. We're all ready," Johnathan Loyd said. "We can play with anybody; we're not scared of any team."

Well, there surely wasn't any sign of trepidation Saturday as the Ducks kept on rolling, vanquishing Saint Louis, 74-57, in a game that wasn't really that close in the HP Pavilion. Oregon (28-8) took the lead for good midway through the first half, had a 16-point advantage by halftime and never let the Billikens (28-7) draw closer than 11 points in the second half.

That sends Oregon to Indianapolis for a Friday matchup with the Cardinals in the semifinals of the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis after Louisville disposed of Colorado State, 82-57, earlier Saturday.

Still, who can doubt the Ducks will give it a go?

"They're a pretty confident group, there's no doubt about that," coach Dana Altman said of his players. "We're feeling good but Louisville "… we've got a tremendous challenge ahead of us. We're going to have to play our best game."

There were aspects of that kind of performance against the Billikens, champions of the regular season and conference tournament in the Atlantic 10. Saint Louis had won 16 of its previous 17 games. Its previous five opponents had all failed to reach 60 points.

Oregon had that with more than seven minutes left and, even with a sloppy finish, the Ducks' final point total matched a season high for a Saint Louis opponent.

With freshman Damyean Dotson hitting 8-of-12 shots from the field, including 5-of-6 on three-pointers, for a game-high 23 points, the Ducks shot 52.8 percent overall. In 34 previous games, only two Saint Louis opponents had made half their shots from the field, and nobody approached what the Ducks did on three-pointers — 72.8 percent on 8 of 11.

Even missed shots sometimes turned into points as Arsalan Kazemi had seven offensive rebounds in his total of 16, leading Oregon to a 38-27 overall edge.

Former South Medford High star E.J. Singler and Carlos Emory each chipped in 14 points, and the Ducks had 18 assists on their 28 field goals. Take away 18 turnovers, and could Oregon have played much better at the offensive end of the court?

"Guys are playing good, looking at the basket and trying to make plays for each other," Altman said. "I just thought we did a lot of things really well."

Some of them were certainly at the defensive end of the court. The Ducks strayed from their usual man-to-man defense with a 2-3 zone, and also extended the pressure when the opportunity arose.

The result was 10 steals against a team that usually protects the basketball, and Saint Louis also went 3-of-21 on three-point attempts because the Billikens couldn't get inside the UO zone with any consistency.

"Our little soft press and zone messed 'em up a little bit and was the difference in the game," Altman said. "We wanted to score, we wanted to run, that was the plan.

"I didn't think it would go this well. "… The guys just did a great job."

The Ducks closed the first half on a 21-4 run for a 35-19 advantage. It was the biggest deficit faced by the Billikens since they trailed Kansas by 18 points in the fourth game of the season.

Saint Louis got within 37-26 early in the second half, but Dotson hit a three-pointer and Loyd scored off his steal to restore the 16-point advantage.

The margin reached 24 points with more than six minutes left, and now it's on to Indianapolis.

It will be Oregon's first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 2006, and the first time getting that far for Altman as a head coach, with eight previous NCAA teams in his 24 seasons at the Division I level.

"I'm excited but, man, it's just great to get to see those guys in the locker room all fired up," he said. "And for our fans that have waited for this. And for our state, it's good.

"This team has really come a long way since we started practice "… and (they're) really good guys. I'm really happy for them."


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