The 12th seeded Oregon Ducks took down 4th seed St. Louis Billikens Saturday in San Jose, 74-57. It should be blatantly obvious to everyone after this game that Oregon got no seeding respect from the selection committee. However, it seems to have worked out in the Ducks’ favor, as Oklahoma State and St. Louis were seeded high, and probably not deserving of their 5 and 4 seeds respectively.
The game started out with both teams operating in a physical man defense. It was a slow start for each team, but the Billikens started out better than Oregon. The man defense the Ducks initially used allowed St. Louis to move the ball around and get it in down low for some easy points. After 5 minutes in the game, Oregon made a pivotal switch to zone defense for the rest of the half. When the Ducks switched to the zone, St. Louis had major problems finding open shots and knocking them down. They went 0-10 from behind the arc in the first half.
The Ducks received a huge spark from Carlos Emory off the bench, and he scored 8 quick points while igniting a run for Oregon. Dwayne Evans tried to answer back for the Billikens and score 4 straight points to put St. Louis up 15-14. After that it was all Oregon for the rest of the game. The Ducks went on a 21-4 run to go into the half with a 16 point lead, 35-19.
Going in to the locker room coach Dana Altman stated “we just need to keep switching defense to try and throw them off”. One of the ways Oregon was throwing them off was operating a full court press for most of the game. The Ducks usually only go into this set after a made free throw, and this kept St. Louis from being able to set up any type of offense. Oregon also shot excellent from the field in the first half with a 60% field goal percentage.
Coming out of halftime Oregon switched it back into man to man defense and St. Louis started in a zone for the first time. St. Louis came out and scored 4 very quick points, prompting the Ducks to again switch back in to the zone defense that had stymied the Billikens during the first half. Once that switch was made, Oregon started to take the game back over and hit their shots. St. Louis never cut the lead in to single digits in the second half, with the Ducks going up by 24 at one point.
It was great defense and great rebounding, combined with excellent shooting, that got Oregon the big W today. The Ducks won the rebounding battle 37-23, with Arsalan Kazemi ripping down an outstanding 16 boards. Kazemi now averages 16.5 rebounds per game in this post season. Oregon also held St. Louis to just 37.7% from the field and a horrible 3-21 from behind the arc. In contrast, Oregon shot 52.8% from the field and an outstanding 72.7% from behind the arc with Damyean Dotson hitting 5-6 from 3-point range.
Damyean Dotson led all Duck scorers with a career high 23 points. Carlos Emory and E.J. Singler added 14 points a piece and combined for 7 rebounds and 7 assists. There were two other notable performances from Oregon players: Arsalan Kazemi had 8 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks; Johnathan Loyd had 9 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals.
For St. Louis, Kwamain Mitchell led the team with 18 points and 5 steals. Dwayne Evans added 16 points and 9 rebounds with Jordair Jett contributing 11 points respectively.
The decision to switch to a zone defense was the difference maker in the game for the Ducks. Every time they operated in that defense it seemed that St. Louis was confused and forgot how to score. This will be the first time since 2007 that the Oregon Ducks have advanced to the Sweet 16. It becomes even sweeter after they were shafted with the 12 seed.
Up next, Oregon will take on No. 1 seeded (and #1 seed overall) Louisville . Unlike the first two opponents, Louisville has earned their seeding with a 31-5 record and is ranked No. 2 in the polls. Oregon will need to keep up their momentum and play very smart if they want to advance to the Elite Eight. This game will be played on Friday, March 29th, with the tipoff time to be announced.