Pac-12 Tournament: Oregon outpaces Colorado in quarterfinals
LAS VEGAS – The tempo was so quick that fans could ill afford to blink. And that's just how the Oregon Ducks like it.
In Thursday's third quarterfinal of the Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament, No. 2 seed Oregon outpaced the 10th-seeded Colorado Buffaloes en route to a 93-85 victory at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
[Related photos: Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament quarterfinals]
The Ducks (24-8) actually trailed at halftime, 37-34, but Jalil Abdul-Bassit came out swinging with a quick three-pointer to spark Oregon in the second half. It was a precursor of things to come, as the Ducks took control of the game with a 10-0 run a few minutes into the second period. The run was highlighted by back-to-back dunks by Joseph Young and Dwayne Benjamin in a span of just nine seconds, thanks to a quick steal by Casey Benson on an inbounds pass. By the time Dillon Brooks hit his layup to complete the sequence, Oregon had turned a tied game into a 56-46 advantage.
"We were dead to start the game," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "I must have put them to sleep before the ball game with my inspirational speech, because our activity just wasn't very good. ... But I thought the press [defense] did get us going. And then we hit a couple of threes. Then I really felt our energy level pick up, and then definitely we had a different energy about us in the second half."
Midway though the first half, Altman's squad started pressuring Colorado (15-17) in its own backcourt, throwing off the Buffs' early momentum. And, as Colorado coach Tad Boyle pointed out, the Ducks outscored his team 27-2 in points off turnovers.
"That's the ball game," Boyle said.
That Joseph Young guy on Oregon wasn't half bad, either.
Playing in his first game since being named Pac-12 Player of the Year, Young dropped a game-high 30 points while playing all 40 minutes, adding six rebounds, three steals and a couple of highlight plays for good measure. Boyle said Young was the focus of his team's defensive game plan but that his team wasn't able to execute and get the ball out of Young's hands. But the junior guard deflected any praise that came his way during the post-game press conference.
"It's really my teammates setting the picks, finding when I'm open and coach calling the right plays," Young said. "I really commend my teammates. It's all about my team."
As he said, Young didn't do it alone. Forward Elgin Cook added 20 for the Ducks and sharpshooter Jalil Abdul-Bassit chipped in 15 more.
Five different Buffs scored in double digits, led by Josh Scott's 16-point performance. While the Ducks are the ones moving on to Friday's semifinal against the winner of Thursday's nightcap between Stanford and Utah, it was Colorado who seized the early momentum. Scott asserted himself early, scoring nine points in the first half, but wasn't as big of a factor after intermission.
The Buffs led by as many as 11 in the first period, but the Ducks rattled off a trio of three-pointers in consecutive possessions to bring themselves right back into the game. Even though they were trailing at halftime, the Ducks remained positive at the locker room.
"Everybody was still real confident," Cook said. "But it kind of gave us more of an urgency we had to execute, and we had to be more active and come out and play as hard as we can."
Once the second half got going, Colorado couldn't do anything to stop the Ducks, with Oregon converting 13-of-14 shot attempts during one stretch. But the Ducks went a bit flat in the closing minutes, allowing the Buffs to cut the deficit to 80-76 at the 2:32 mark after Xavier Talton buried a three-pointer. The 15-4 Colorado run made things interesting, but ultimately the Buffs ran out of time to complete the comeback.
Young's counterpart, explosive Colorado guard Askia Booker, eventually fouled out in the final seconds after scoring 12 points in possibly his final collegiate game. Once Booker reached the bench after receiving his fifth foul, Boyle shared some parting words with his senior leader.
"When you look at his body of work in its entirety," Boyle said, "I think Askia Booker will be fondly remembered at the University of Colorado for the teams he was a part of and the career he had."