ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) The Oregon Ducks took a double-digit lead early in the second half against the defending national champions, and they never flinched down the stretch.
After taking down mighty Duke with remarkably little drama, these high-flying Ducks are on the brink of the Final Four.
Dillon Brooks scored 22 points and Oregon advanced with an 82-68 victory over the Blue Devils on Thursday night in the West Region semifinal of the NCAA Tournament.
Elgin Cook had 16 points and nine rebounds for the top-seeded Ducks (31-6), who will meet Oklahoma on Saturday. The second-seeded Sooners routed Texas A&M 77-63.
After a season-long rise in the Pacific Northwest, the Pac-12 champion Ducks emphatically arrived on the national stage with a strong second-half rally to beat the Blue Devils (25-11) for the first time in school history.
“I think we don’t have a history of being a basketball school, but I think we did some great things this year to prove we deserve it,” said Jordan Bell, who had 13 points and seven rebounds. “I think we played one of our best games this year. Everybody, not just including me. I think we showed everybody we’re a good team.”
The win is a landmark for a football school making its basketball mark. But it was also remarkable for what the Ducks didn’t allow in the second half.
No nerves, no panic – and no rallies by Duke.
The Ducks didn’t take the enormity of their accomplishment for granted, even though they can’t spend much time thinking about it right now.
“Duke is a household name,” coach Dana Altman said. “Coach K, I have a great deal of respect. So yeah, our guys knew the significance of playing Duke, defending national title, all the Final Fours, all the national championships that their program has been able to win. It was a different feel to it.”
Oregon was the champion of the first NCAA Tournament in 1939, but hasn’t been back to the Final Four since. The Ducks advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2007 and the third time since 2002.
Brooks hit four 3-pointers to lead the Ducks, who also broke the school’s single-season wins record with their 31st. They’ve won 10 straight since mid-February while winning the Pac-12’s regular-season and tournament titles.
“They’re not that deep,” Brooks said of the Blue Devils. “I think (Grayson) Allen played the whole game. They’ve really only got seven guys. We knew they were bound to get tired. We just kept going and kept going, knowing they’d wear out. … Some of them, their shoulders started to sag. Once they got tired we could see it.”
Freshman Brandon Ingram scored 24 points, but Duke fell short of its third Elite Eight trip in five years – and both coaches agreed the better team won.
Allen, the Blue Devils’ leading scorer, got 12 of his 15 points in the second half, but Duke couldn’t make much progress in the second half.
“They’re an athletic team, and that plays into their defense,” said Allen, who went 4 for 13. “I also thought we missed some shots around the rim. Could have gone up stronger to finish, but give them credit for going up to challenge us.”
Coach Mike Krzyzewski still emerged proud of his young roster after losing five of its final 10 games.
“They were the better team, that was pretty obvious,” Krzyzewski said. “They knocked us back. They were always in control of the game. Right at the end, I thought we could do a Texas A&M (comeback) … but then amazing things have to happen.”
Oregon jumped out to an 11-point lead after back-to-back 3-pointers by Casey Benson and Chris Boucher, and they got the arena rocking with back-to-back fast-break dunks from Bell and Cook moments later.
KOBE IN THE HOUSE
Kobe Bryant and Apple CEO Tim Cook watched the game from a Duke fan section, while Nike’s Phil Knight was among the Oregon contingent. Rams running back and Duke basketball fan Todd Gurley also attended the game.
Ingram had an outstanding NCAA Tournament, scoring 69 points in Duke’s three games. If the skinny 18-year-old forward heads to the NBA as expected, he’s likely to be a top-three pick after showing incredible promise in his only season in Durham. “I’m not really worried about that right now,” Ingram said of the NBA. “I’m worried about finishing up school and being with my guys. I love this team and I’d do anything for this team.”
Duke: The Blue Devils are 0-5 in NCAA Tournament games in the Pacific time zone … Marshall Plumlee got two early fouls and finished with six points in his final game. … Luke Kennard added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Oregon: Altman is in the Elite Eight for the first time in his 26-season head coaching career. … Benson hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points.
Oregon: Faces Oklahoma in the West Region final.