Indianapolis, IN – Oregon came off a 10-day break to play one of their best NCAA Tournament games ever in a 95-80 win over No. 2-seed Iowa. The Ducks went on a 22-5 run late in the first half to early in the second half to break open a close game.
Oregon received contributions from everyone getting playing time. Chris Duarte led the team with 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting and added seven assists. LJ Figueroa added 21 points, shooting 5-of-7 on 3s and pulled down seven rebounds. Will Richardson scored 19 points on 7-of-10 from the field and added seven assists and six rebounds. Eugene Omoruyi battled the much bigger Luka Garza inside to put up 17 points, grab six rebounds and dish out five assists. Eric Williams Jr. added nine points and provided some tough work inside. 6-11 freshman Franck Kepnang brought some energy off the bench and scored four points with two blocked shots in six minutes. The Ducks needed a team effort to withstand Garza’s final collegiate performance. He was exceptional, finishing with 36 points on 14-of-20 shooting overall, 3-of-4 from deep and added nine rebounds.
Oregon moved the ball very well, generating 25 assists on 38 made baskets. The Ducks had a clear match-up disadvantage against Garza inside but did their best to defend on the perimeter and limit the Hawkeyes three-point efficiency. That worked well, as outside of Garza, Iowa shot only 5-of-21 from deep. Starting guards Jordan Bohannon and CJ Fredrick were both held scoreless on a combined 0-7 three-point shooting. Joe Wieskamp scored 17 points, but on an inefficient 17 shots and was only 3-of-8 from deep. On the other hand, Oregon shot 55.9 percent from the field, including 11-of-25 (44 percent) from deep. They battled the bigger Hawkeyes evenly on the boards (34 each) and forced Iowa into eight second half turnovers. The Ducks were more athletic and had several nice feeds resulting in dunks. Oregon had a 46-38 edge in points in the paint.
Coach Dana Altman was worried about how the Ducks would react after not playing a game for ten days. He didn’t need to worry as Oregon came out of the gates on fire offensively. The only issue was Iowa, especially Garza, did as well. Garza scored 14 of the Hawkeyes first 17 points as the teams battled evenly early. A Duarte three-pointer gave Oregon a 25-20 lead midway through the half. Iowa came back and eventually took a 42-38 lead after Garza scored six straight points, including a three-pointer. Then the Ducks returned the favor and finished the half on a 10-point run to take a 56-46 lead into the break. It was the first NCAA tournament game with over 100 first half points since 2008.
Oregon shot 59.5 percent in the half (22-of-37) including 7-of-14 from deep. The Hawkeyes connected on 17-of-33 (51.5 percent) of their shots but only made 3-of-11 of their 3s. Garza scored 22 first half points on 8-of-10 from the field but didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates, who shot a combined 9-of-23. Oregon had four players in double-figures led by 14 points from Duarte (5-of-6 shooting) and Richardson, who was a perfect 5-of-5 including two 3s. Figueroa added 11 points on 3-of-3 from deep while the 6-6 Omoruyi battled Garza inside and scored 10 points with four rebounds. The Ducks outrebounded the bigger Hawkeyes 18-13. There were only 10 turnovers in the half with Oregon committing six. Oregon had a 22-20 edge in points in the paint, as while Garza is effective on offense he’s not very effective on the defensive end, especially in guarding in space and is not a rim protector.
The Ducks came out strong at the start of the second half, extending their run to 22-5 on a Duarte dunk and a subsequent flagrant foul called against Iowa’s Bohannon. Williams Jr. made both free throws to extend the lead to 16 at 67-51. Iowa came back to score six straight points to bring the deficit down to ten. Omoruyi then blocked a Garza shot inside and connected on a three-pointer. After another Figueroa three the Ducks extended their lead to 75-57. Iowa wasn’t able to respond and Oregon coasted to the win. Back-to-back three-pointers from Garza cot Oregon’s lead to 91-77 but that was the last bit of life Iowa showed.
Oregon’s win gave the Pac-12 a 8-0 record in the tournament while Iowa’s loss dropped to Big Ten to 6-7. With the Big 12 also having some trouble with Texas’s opening round loss to Abilene Christian, and Oregon State’s defeat of Oklahoma State, the question of which is the top conference nationally is being answered in front of everyone’s eyes, not by talking heads on television.
The Ducks advance to the Sweet Sixteen and will face the winner of today’s USC – Kansas game on Sunday.