San Jose, CA – No. 12-seed Oregon used a 47-point second half to propel them from a halftime tie and run away from No. 5-seed Wisconsin 72-54 in first round NCAA Tournament action at the SAP Center in San Jose. Payton Pritchard led the Ducks in scoring with 19 points while Louis King added 17 and Paul White contributed 14 points, all in the second half. Oregon’s defense limited the Badgers’ star center Ethan Happ to 12 points, five rebounds and zero assists, all under his season averages. Happ also committed five turnovers. The Ducks continued their remarkable late season surge, winning their ninth consecutive game helped by their excellent defensive play and team cohesiveness.
Pritchard and King kept Oregon in the game in the first half as they scored 19 of the Ducks’ 25 points. Pritchard was aggressive on offense, attempting 13 shots in the half, making five. King was an efficient 3-of-5. Oregon held Wisconsin to 2-of-11 shooting from long distance but only converted on 2-of-9 three-point attempts themselves. The teams headed to the halftime break tied at 25. It was apparent that Oregon needed to get other players involved offensively to be able to win this game.
That happened in the second half. Pritchard only took five shots, connecting on three while King continued his efficient shooting and White and Kenny Wooten got involved. White was 5-of-5 shooting in the half including two successful three-point attempts. Wooten blocked three second half shots, several spectacularly with quick jumps and helped keep Happ in check. Wooten was also the recipient of three alley-oop passes from Pritchard that resulted in resounding dunks. King, noticeably hobbling on a tender ankle, hit 3-of-5 shots in the half, also making both his three-pointers. Pritchard had eight assists and seven turnovers in the game.
Oregon shot an excellent 70.8 percent in the half (17-of-24) while making five of their six three-point attempts. On the other hand Wisconsin kept misfiring, partially due to Oregon’s defense but partially due to just missing shots. The Badgers shot 21.1 percent (4-of-19) from distance in the half and 20 percent (6-of-30) overall on 3s in the game. Oregon noticed that Happ likes to drive the baseline and dish to his teammates or go up for a shot himself and took that option away. Oregon had a ten-point (34-24) advantage in points in the paint and a 12-6 edge in points after turnovers.
In the first game No. 13-seed UC-Irvine (31-5) upset No. 4-seed Kansas State (25-9) 70-64. Max Hazzard connected on 5-of-11 3s and scored 19 points to lead the Anteaters along with Evan Leonard, who made all nine of his free throw attempts. Kamau Stokes led the Wildcats with 18 points, connecting on 3-of-9 from deep.
Kansas State had a 51-47 lead with 9:14 remaining before Irvine reeled off 12 straight points to take an eight point lead. The Wildcats cut the lead to two points (66-64) on a Cartier Diarra three-pointer with 1:03 remaining. After an Irvine missed shot, Kansas State had a chance to tie or take the lead with a three-pointer. Instead Barry Brown Jr. threw a bad pass out of bounds. Irvine made four late free throws to put the game away.