ANAHEIM-Duke’s trip to the West Coast was short and unsweet. The Oregon Ducks said bye-bye and good riddance to the defending national champions with a game that went all in on the speed factor, leaving the Blue Devils wrestling in their dust.
In case there was any doubt about the validity of the Ducks’ prowess, well that question was emphatically answered by the Pac-12 Conference with one fastbreak and 3-point shot after another. Quite simply, Duke had no answers to stop this runaway train. When it was all said and done, Oregon defeated Duke 82-68 in the Sweet 16 game.
But the final score is not a clear indicator of just how far away the Blue Devils were in keeping up with the Ducks on this night at the Anaheim Honda Center. A trip to the Final Four would be wonderful for the Ducks, but they have to get through Oklahoma to get there.
Right now, however, Oregon has every right to bask in the moment of making it to the Elite Eight, a feat not likely achieved by a team that has been vastly overlooked and underrated this season. It’s been a marvelous run thus far for the Ducks. While Arizona got a lot of the Pac-12 Conference buzz before and during the season, Oregon are the last men standing.
The team’s excited. I’m excited. It’s a great opportunity for our school, for the guys that have worked awfully hard. So it’s a great opportunity for us.
“You know, it’s been a long time coming for our school,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman. “It’s been a long time for our coaching staff. So we are very excited about the opportunity.”
Just how good has the Ducks been? Oregon is 26-0 when leading an opponent at halftime. They are 21-0 when holding an opponent to less than 70 points. In short, the Ducks’ appearance in the Sweet 16 and the now the round of round of eight is not coincidental. They have game on both ends of the court as Los Lakers great Kobe Bryant witnessed first hand as he sat and watched the contest with his wife Vanessa.
The Ducks got out on top of the Blue Devils early, running their way to a 36-31 intermission lead. Oregon then went buckwild in the second half, outscoring Duke 46-37. That’s not a nice way of treating the defending national champions.
For the game, Duke made just 7 of 22 3-point shots and was outrebounded by Oregon by 10 boards (42-32). Oregon’s speed and depth played a huge part in the Ducks’ win. While the Blue Devils played virtually a one-man show in giving the ball to Brandon Ingram (24 points, 5 rebounds), Duke’s other key players struggled from the field.
That was not the case for Oregon. The Ducks, led by Dillon Brooks’ 22 points, had five players to score in double figures, showing off their deep versatility. The Ducks shot nearly 50 percent from the field, and at one point, owned a 16-point lead late in the second half to put away the Blue Devils. For Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, this was another hard fall to a Pac-12 Conference school.
Krzyzewski probably would prefer to not have his team play in California any time soon. In three NCAA Tournament games appearances in the state of California, Duke is winless. Duke owns a 7-5 record against Pac-12 Conference schools in NCAA Tournament games altogether.
In regards to his team’s defeat to Oregon, Krzyzewski said the Ducks presented a challenge that you don’t see all the time.
“I don’t think the rebounding had much to do with it tonight,” Krzyzewski said afterward. “You know, the blocked shots, their athleticism where you think you’re open and then they’re so good laterally and then they have guys that go vertical. That combination, if you do get past the lateral on the drive, boom, the other stuff is there. That combination was, to me, something you just don’t face very often. You can’t — first of all, we don’t practice that much, we can’t, but you can’t simulate that. Actually, rebounding-wise we weren’t as bad. It was just the other stuff.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”