After Chris Boucher was lost for the season, a familiar refrain went around Oregon basketball.
“Next man up,” Dillon Brooks said.
Dana Altman also repeated a common phrase.
“We’ve got to get Kavell (Bigby-Williams), Roman (Sorkin), and Keith (Smith) prepared to give us a few minutes here and there,” the coach said.
While Oregon may go to its seventh, eighth, and ninth men during the NCAA Tournament, Brooks insisted that the regular six-man rotation — down one without Boucher — needs to provide more when the third-seeded Ducks (29-5) face No. 14 Iona (22-12) in the first round at 11 a.m. Friday in Sacramento.
“Kavell, Roman and Keith have to step up, but it is up to the other guys on the team too,” Brooks said after Oregon lost 83-80 to Arizona in the finals of the Pac-12 Tournament on Saturday. “We have to fill in for what Chris does. We have to block more shots and defend better. Chris could have made some big plays, but he is injured, so we have got to find a way.”
In a loss to Arizona ultimately decided by one possession, Brooks pointed out three miscues that occurred in the final two minutes with Oregon’s starters on the court.
“We missed a blockout on a rebound,” he said of Allonzo Trier’s rebounding a missed free throw with 1:22 to play. “We were down four and we got a charge with 55 seconds left. Then I shot a three-pointer down four when I could have taken it to the rim. Those are mental lapses you can’t have in a tournament and we have to learn from it.”
While Altman wants to go deeper down his bench, he will also likely keep his regulars on the floor longer to cover the 23 minutes averaged by Boucher, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a 73-65 win over California on Friday.
The Ducks want Brooks to play more than the 26.7 minutes he averaged in three Pac-12 tournament games when he was called for 11 fouls.
“I can’t foul so much,” Brooks said. “I can’t be on the bench for that long.”
Brooks played 21 minutes against California after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half. He was called for one foul in 19 minutes during the first half against Arizona, but had two in the first six minutes of the second half and went to the bench before eventually fouling out after getting four fouls in 14 minutes of the half.
Brooks has been whistled for 30 fouls in his last nine games and fouled out twice in that span. Six-foot-nine junior Jordan Bell has avoided foul trouble during the last few weeks, a positive development for another Duck who may see his minutes rise in the postseason without Boucher.
Bell had three or more fouls in 10 of Oregon’s first 26 games, but has been called for eight fouls in his past six games. He played 34 minutes per game in the Pac-12 Tournament, six more than he averaged in the regular season.
Tyler Dorsey is coming off the best three-game stretch of his career when he averaged 22.3 points in the tournament while scoring at least 20 in three straight games for the first time. The sophomore shot 24-for-42 from the field, including 9-for-19 on three-pointers, and likely would have been named most valuable player if Oregon had won the title.
“We’re going to bounce back, put this in our rear-view mirror,” Dorsey said. “We’re going to come out and get ready, play harder and bring more energy.”
Senior guard Dylan Ennis was one total minute behind Bell at 91 minutes during the tournament. Payton Pritchard played 26.7 minutes and Casey Benson was at 21.7, close to the season averages for both point guards.
The player who will get the biggest boost in playing time is Bigby-Williams, whose 14 minutes against Arizona were his most in the past 12 games.
“I thought Kavell played really well,” Altman said. “He gave us a big lift defensively and he went and got six rebounds in a very short period of time. He helped us a great deal, I thought he played great.”
In his last five games, Bigby-Williams has 14 rebounds in 44 minutes.
“That’s my strong point and I try to bring it to the team,” he said.
Altman has praised Bigby-Williams, Sorkin, and Smith — who all average less than nine minutes per game — for their work in practice to stay ready when called to come off the bench. The 6-foot-10 Sorkin did not play in the final two games of the Pac-12 Tournament while the 6-foot-7 Smith, a freshman who missed all of February with a knee injury, played two minutes against the Wildcats.
“We knew Kavell would play a bit more and we’re going to try to play Keith and Roman a little bit,” Altman said.
Bigby-Williams and Smith will experience the NCAA Tournament for the first time while Sorkin’s only playing time in two trips to the tournament was 11 minutes during a blowout win over Holy Cross in the first round last year.
“The veteran guys, me and Jordan and Casey and Dylan, we have to help these guys through and push through it,” Brooks said. “We have to compete harder and play harder.”