SAN, JOSE- What a whirlwind the last six days have been for the Oregon Ducks. Last Sunday much of the country scratched their collective heads at the Ducks No.12 seeding, but two blowout-upsets later and the Ducks will play in the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis next Friday.
Much like Thursday's win over Oklahoma State, Oregon pushed a halftime lead to double digits and never relented the margin in a 74-57 victory over Saint Louis. The script for accomplishing it was identical, find the hot shooting Damyean Dotson, lock-down on shooters and own the boards.
Dotson scored a career-best 23 points, 14 in the second half and converted 5-of-6 three point shots. The freshman from Texas has missed just 14 attempts from deep in the past five games, making 16.
"We didn't get him off the shot spots like we wanted to," said Saint Louis coach Jim Crews. "And sometimes it looked like we had good pressure on him."
"I keep telling the guys, you've got to take good ones," said head coach Dana Altman. "And Dot[son], all six of his were…He's a very good shooter when he takes good shots."
With Oregon pulling away, Saint Louis leaned on what had jolted the Billekins to 16 wins in 17 games: three-point shooting. But it was not their day from deep, as they failed to convert from deep in the first half despite 10 tries and finished 3-for-21.
"I just really think that we tried to shoot our way through some situations that maybe our problems was executing through it. So we were a little quick with shots," Crews said.
Part of that was a change in defensive philosophy, Oregon elected to extend their pressure full-court and drop into a zone. The result: 10 steals.
"I think the press today and the zone really took them out of what they like to do," said E.J. Singler, who finished with 14 points. "As a collective unit, we just played really well."
Arsalan Kazemi was king-of-the-glass finishing with 16 rebounds, one shy of the 17 he recorded Thursday. All together, the Ducks out-rebounded the Billekins by 11, including nine on the offensive side.
"Some players come and try to show people what they can do and what they can't do. I said I can help my team rebounding, and I'm going to go out and get as many rebounds as possible," he said. Kazemi also finished with eight points, two steals and two blocks.
After a Johnathan Loyd three-point shot ended the half to give the Ducks a 16-point lead, the Billekins fought back opening the half with a 7-2 run.
"We were very aggressive the second half defensively," Crews said. "But if you give up fouls and offensive rebounds… then you're letting people off the hook."
Oregon responded with a 26-13 run, started by a Dotson three, and concluded the same way.
"He [Altman] tells me to shoot the catch-and-shoots, and that's what I've been doing," Dotson said. " I just try to stay aggressive and be a good teammate…"
This is Altman's first appearance in the Sweet 16, but more importantly to the coach, it's another opportunity for his upperclassmen who won't have another opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament.
"For me I get an opportunity to do it a number of times. E.J. doesn't. That's who I feel great for.
"We [Carlos Emory] were sitting back there and [he] said, man, I just don't know what to expect. I said just savor everything and enjoy it."