KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The No. 3 Oregon Ducks squeaked by No. 7 Michigan, 69-68, in their Sweet 16 showdown. Jordan Bell was a monster with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Dorsey led the way with 20 points and tallied the eventual game-winner. With the massive victory, Oregon will make their second straight trip to the Elite Eight.
Hail to the Victors! Michigan may have entered as “America’s Team,” but Oregon exited with the better ending to this story.
“We don’t pay attention to that,” said Dorsey. “Lace up your shoes and go play. They have a great story. They’re very fortunate and they’ve been playing well. It was a dogfight until the end.”
The Ducks move their historic record to 32-5 on the season. Oregon slides into the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season. It is their fifth Elite Eight appearance in program history. The 2017 NCAA Tournament has lived up to expectations for the Ducks. Thank you once again, March Madness.
Only Villanova (67) and Kansas (64) have more total wins than Oregon (63) over the last two years. The big three are the only teams in the country with back-to-back 30-win seasons.
“It’s a competitive ballgame,” said Oregon head coach Dana Altman. “While you’re in the game, you don’t think about it much. It went back and forth. Tyler got us those big buckets right before the half to give us the lead.”
Both teams shot about the same from the field, as Oregon (44 percent) and Michigan (43 percent) battled. Yet, the Ducks gained the advantage on stellar 3-point shooting to the tune of 47 percent. They held UM to just 35 percent from deep.
“We led for about 24 minutes in the game, they led for about 10 minutes,” said Altman. “We just couldn’t shake them.”
Dorsey led the way, tying with a game-high 20 points. The sophomore keeps elevating his game and scorching nets, Thursday was further illustration. He concluded 7-for-15 from the field, and more importantly 5-for-7 from downtown.
Dorsey is the first Oregon player to score at least 20 points in first three NCAA Tournament games in a single season. It was his sixth straight game with 20 points or more.
The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year was remarkable, going 7-for-10 from the floor. The Long Beach native showed up and showed out with a double-double on 16 points, 13 boards, one steal, one assist and one blocked shot. Bell was everywhere. Aside from a missed dunk, he was near perfection.
Bell is Oregon’s all-time leader for rebounds (85) and blocked shots (20) in NCAA Tournament play.
After a back-and-forth game, Oregon had their largest lead of five points, 56-51, squandered after a 13-5 Wolverine run with 1:54 remaining. It was capped by Derrick Walton Jr., as Michigan reassumed the lead, 68-65.
“It did go back and forth, we couldn’t shake them. We had the 5-point lead and I thought we were good,” Altman said. “Then they hit back-to-back 3’s and really turned the game.”
The Ducks refused to die, fighting back with a 4-0 run of their own. Following a missed free throw by Dylan Ennis, Bell grabbed the offensive board and score, cutting the deficit to one point, 68-67. Dorsey finished the run with a lay up, as Oregon regained the lead for good, 69-68.
“Jordan made a big offensive rebound on the free throw,” Dorsey stated. “We’re fortunate that Walton didn’t hit that last game-winner.”
Moments later, Brooks missed a lay up but Bell grabbed the offensive rebound forcing Michigan to foul with 14.9 seconds left in the game.
Ennis missed another free throw and Michigan had an opportunity to win the game, but Walton’s attempt fell short.
“It was very shaky. We missed some free throws,” stated Dorsey in disgust. “We missed a lot of free throws and that could’ve hurt us.”
Entering the game, the free throw shooting of both teams was under the microscope. Michigan lived up to their expectations, shooting a perfect 100 percent (7-for-7) from the line. The Ducks concluded another dreadful night from the charity stripe at 56 percent (9-for-16).
After scoring four points in the first half, Dillon Brooks tallied eight second-half points for a total of 12 overall. He was the utility man on Thursday, filling in the Duck defensive holes. The Canadian secured four boards and five assists on 5-for-13 shooting from the floor.
Ennis concluded his evening with 10 points, five boards and three assists. He was 2-for-5 from the charity stripe.
We would be remiss to not mention Chris Boucher and the impact he has made from the sideline during Oregon’s run.
“Whatever he sees that the coaches don’t, he helps us with,” said Dorsey in reference to his teammate. “He comes into the huddle individually and gives us those tips. He's been a great teammate. I know it’s hurting him. He wants to be out there with us, but we’re definitely going to do this for him. He's a great teammate off the court.”
Kavell Bigby-Williams made his presence felt in his limited eight minutes. He registered two boards, a point and an assist.
“We got some good minutes out of Kavell,” stated Altman. “Other guys have stepped up. I’m happy that we’ve been able to make the adjustment (without Boucher) and move forward. But, I do feel terrible for Chris. He’s a wonderful young man.”
Casey Benson played 24 minutes off the bench. The junior finished with five points, three boards and two dimes. The last time Benson played against the Wolverines in 2014, the freshman then was held scoreless in 23 minutes of action.
Walton was the Michigan’s star yet again, tying for a game-high with 20 points. He was 6-for-10 from the field and 3-for-5 from behind the arc. But, he missed his two most important attempts.
“I was looking up at the ball as he shot it,” Dorsey said in reference to the final attempt of the night from Walton. “I was so happy it came short.”
Zak Irvin was great for Michigan with 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field. He added eight rebounds.
The Duck defense shut down the star of Michigan’s win against Louisville. Mo Wagner had a game-high 26 that day, but was held to seven points on Thursday night. He was 3-for-10 from the field and 0-for-4 behind the arc.
DJ Wilson’s performance was inconsistent. He scored the first six points of the game for UM, but was heard from very little afterward. The 6-foot-10 forward recorded 12 points and six rebounds.
Oregon’s defense stifled the two Michigan big men to the tune of 7-for-20 from the floor.
Senior Duncan Robinson registered eight points off the bench for the Wolverines.
Oregon won the turnover margin, 8-5. However, the rebounding differential was slightly, 36-31, in the Ducks’ favor. Thanks to Bell, UO had six offensive boards to Michigan’s two.
Next up for No. 3 Oregon (32-5) is the No. 1 seed of the Midwest region in the form of the Kansas Jayhawks (31-4). The Elite Eight showdown will tip at 5:49 p.m. PT on Saturday from the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The “KU home game” will be televised on TBS.
Tyler Dorsey’s Go-Ahead Bucket gives Oregon 69-68 lead
Duck Defense Leads To Transition Score against the Michigan defense
Derrick Walton Jr. Misses Game-Winning Attempt to conclude Sweet 16 contest