Ducks find a way
LAS VEGAS — Despite foul trouble and offensive struggles, No. 1 seed Oregon finished strong to squeak past No. 5 seed California 73-65 on Friday at T-Mobile Arena.
The Ducks, fresh off a 23-point win over Arizona State on Thursday, fell behind 8-0. Oregon didn't take the lead until the 6:25 mark in the first half and never really found its rhythm on the offensive end.
"We weren't very sharp offensively," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "A lot of individual plays that really got our ball movement stopped and got us out of sync.
"In tournament play, games aren't going to all go the way you want to — you've got to grind some out."
The way Oregon was able to grind out this game may or may not quell any concerns of Duck fans. Much like in their game against ASU, the Ducks picked it up in the second half against Cal and flexed their defensive muscle inside.
This effort was necessary on a night when Oregon shot a meager 43 percent from the field and didn't get production out of star forward Dillon Brooks. Further evidence of Oregon's fortitude came when Brooks picked up his fourth foul early in the second half.
Tyler Dorsey, who led the Ducks with 23 points, picked up the slack when Brooks was on the bench. Dorsey more than made up for Brooks's off shooting night, hitting 9 of 13 field-goal attempts and 5-of-6 from 3-point range.
Getting that kind of consistent production out of Dorsey will be key for Oregon going forward. When teams key on Brooks or he gets in foul trouble, it'll be up to the likes of Dorsey, Jordan Bell and Chris Boucher to bridge the gap.
"Everybody has to pick it up and pick up their role," Dorsey said. "I think we did that today."
The game also provided a necessary test for Oregon as the NCAA Tournament approaches. There will be games — even against inferior teams — where the Ducks will not have their best night from the field, or important players will be in foul trouble. Finding a way to win in those games separates championship teams from others.
"That pressure of going through it and accomplishing something, I think does help you," Altman said. "Guys know you can fight back, you can hold a lead, you can figure out a way."
The Ducks found a way on Friday. In all likelihood, this will not be the last time they will have to do so as they have their sights set on a Final Four run. Oregon will play at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Pac-12 championship game — yet another test for a Ducks team that has experienced plenty.
"We want to win this (Pac-12) championship," Dorsey said. "We want to win it back to back — getting another ring, that's a great feeling."