In some games, it’s hard to pinpoint a moment in when the tables turned in one team’s favor. That was simply not the case in Oregon’s dominant 87-68 win over the BYU Cougars on Thursday at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
Oregon had been controlling the game for the most part, leading by 12 with just over 15 minutes to go. After struggling to get shots to fall all day, the Cougars found their stroke as a trio of three-pointers in the span of 100 seconds cut Oregon’s lead down to just three. It appeared as if we were in for another wild finish between the teams who met earlier this year in Eugene in an overtime thriller at Matthew Knight Arena.
Elgin Cook had other ideas.
You see, this game was a homecoming for Cook. The redshirt sophomore was born in Milwaukee and attended Hamilton High School just 15 minutes down the road from the Bradley Center. His father, Alvin Robertson, played for the Milwaukee Bucks from 1989-93. It should come as no coincidence that Cook turned in the best performance of his career on Thursday with 23 points and eight rebounds. Cook also sparked Oregon’s scoring run that sealed the victory.
After a three-pointer from Matt Carlino brought the Cougars within three, Oregon’s Jonathan Loyd took off down the court in transition. Loyd missed a layup while driving to the rim, but Cook was trailing and was able to come in and throw down a thunderous two-handed put-back jam that set off a 22-6 scoring run as Oregon ran away with the victory.
Unlike their previous meeting in Eugene, there was no drama in this one as the Ducks remained in control for nearly the entire duration of the game. Their outside shooting was atrocious (2-for-13 from three-point range), but Oregon dominated the Cougars inside, outscoring BYU 36-14 in the paint. Cook played a key role in that stat category with all eight of his field goals coming close to the basket. Oregon has usually relied on their outside shooting this year, but Thursday was a different story with the hometown boy leading the way.
Cook also added seven points from the free throw line, shooting 70 percent on the day. As a team, the Ducks shot 82 percent from the charity strike (31-38), another key reason for Oregon’s success against BYU.
Jonathan Loyd told ESPN after the game that ever since finding out the Ducks would be playing in Milwaukee, he has been fired up ever since. Cook certainly played inspired as he managed to get just about everything to fall.
Cook came off the bench, which has been a consistant source of scoring this season for the Ducks. That remained true on Thursday as Oregon’s reserves outscored BYU’s bench 49-10. The depth that Oregon head coach Dana Altman has is perhaps his most lethal weapon in his pocket.
Now, the Ducks prepare for a matchup against No. 2 seed Wisconsin on Saturday. The Ducks will essentially be playing a road game as the Badgers will be playing just 80 miles away from home. History will be against the Ducks, as Oregon has never reached the Sweet 16 in consecutive seasons. But as we’ve seen today, this is March Madness where anything can happen.