Oregon overpowered Iona 93-77 in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament in Sacramento on Friday. They will now play –on Sunday for a trip to play in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City next week.
Oregon coach Dana Altman was obviously happy with the win, but he sees a lot his team can improve on.
“(We did) a lot of good things. The only disappointing thing is, we got a big lead and gave up some easy baskets. And then the ball movement — when we got that big lead, the guys moved it nice, got a lot of easy baskets. When we got it hung up, we weren’t as effective. It’s about survive and advance, but you’ve got to learn from it too.”
The big question for the Ducks was who was going to fill in for Boucher’s 12 points per game and six rebounds per game. At least for the first contest, the answer is Payton Pritchard. The freshman broke out of his shooting slump in a big way with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including four treys.
“The Pac-12 tournament I was obviously down on myself,” he said. “I didn’t look for my shot much. I had a great week of practice, made some shots and just tried to be ready when my number was called.”
Pritchard wasn’t the only Duck filling it up. Tyler Dorsey led the way with 24 points with five boards. Oregon shot 56 percent from the field on 35-of-63 from the field.
Oregon was especially hot in the first half as the Ducks took a 55-37 halftime lead. That was a very good sign as the Ducks showed they were mentally over the loss of Boucher. They were mentally out of it in the first half of the Pac-12 championship game against Arizona and it ultimately cost Oregon.
But not here in the first round of the Big Dance.
To Iona’s credit, they didn’t go away quietly. Thanks to their leading scorer, Jordan Washington, the Gaels stayed in the game and was down just 29-28 with 7:30 left in the half. Oregon coach Dana Altman put Dillon Brooks back into the game and the lead went up to 39-30 to make the Ducks a little more comfortable.
Brooks had a typical Brooks game with 18 points, fours rebounds and four assists. Jordan Bell scored 17 points and 10 boards. Washington led Iona with 22 points and Deyshonee Much added five treys in the second half that turned what was once a 25-point lead down to just 12.
But Brooks hit a three, two free throws before Dorsey nailed a three at the top of the key with three minutes left to ice the game at 91-75.
The Ducks will face Rhode Island on Sunday in the second round. The start time has yet to be determined.
~ Don Smalley