Oregon 58, Miami (Ohio) 56
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)—At the start and at the end, Oregon kept its poise.
The look of concern and worry never showed up. Not when the Ducks were down 9-0 and scoreless for nearly 4 minutes. And especially not at the end, when patient and prodding Miami of Ohio started to chip away at an 11-point deficit.
The third-seeded Ducks rallied from their early deficit behind the 18 points of Aaron Brooks, and Oregon matched the RedHawks’ grinding style to pull out a 58-56 win on Friday in the Midwest Regional.
“Even in the huddles coming down the stretch, you never had a sense that they were going to lose the game,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. “They were going to make the plays, get the stop necessary and knock down the free throws to win the game.”
That’s exactly what Oregon did, though it never was easy for the Ducks. Oregon won its first tournament game since 2002, when it ran to the regional finals.
While Oregon (27-7) is still an offensive power, its defense that has been the key to a late season resurgence, and now seven-game win streak.
Oregon will face 11th-seeded Winthrop in the second round on Sunday. Winthrop beat Notre Dame 74-64 earlier Friday.
“Everybody knows we like to get out in transition and score lots of points. But to do that, you’ve got to get stops,” said Maarty Leunen, who scored 13 for Oregon. “We weren’t getting stops (earlier) in the season.”
Meanwhile, the RedHawks (18-15) weren’t distraught or inconsolable after this loss, and really, why should they be? Getting into the tournament was a shock anyway, after Doug Penno’s bank-shot 3-pointer in the final seconds gave Miami the Mid-American Conference title a week ago.
On Friday, the RedHawks scored the first nine points, went scoreless for nearly 10 minutes and still worked their way back to have a chance to tie in the final 10 seconds. But Michael Bramos’ was forced into a difficult fallaway 25-foot 3-point chance by Oregon’s Joevan Catron. The shot hit off the front rim, Leunen grabbed the rebound, was fouled and hit a pair of free throws with 2 seconds left.
Of course, those free throws became important, since Bramos swished a desperation half-court shot at the buzzer for the final margin.
“Boy, did I want that to go in,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said of the 3-pointer that missed. “I looked and said `please go in, please go in.’ And it didn’t.”
Tim Pollitz scored 21 points and Bramos added 18 for the RedHawks, who were in the tournament for the first time since 1999 when Wally Szczerbiak carried a 10th-seeded Miami to the round of 16.
It was expected to be a matchup of styles, but the Ducks were willing to play at Miami’s pace. That’s because of the confidence in their own defense during the last seven games. The RedHawks are the fifth team in the last seven games that Oregon has held under 60 points.
That may not be such an accomplishment against Miami. But the list also includes Arizona, Washington State and Southern California.
“They played more of our game than we played of their game,” Coles said.
Miami’s early lead brought a quick adjustment from Kent. Seeing the RedHawks taking advantage of their size on the interior, Oregon’s coach went to an attacking zone defense.
That move forced Miami to the perimeter, where it went cold, going almost 10 minutes of the first half without scoring. The partisan Duck fans roared just as loud for a shot-clock violation by the RedHawks’, as Leunen’s lob dunk.
Bramos’ 3-pointer with 7:38 left in the half finally broke the drought, and started the RedHawks slow comeback.
Pollitz scored five straight points early in the second half, bruising his way through the paint to pull the RedHawks within 37-36 with 12:29 left. It was 39-38 moments later when the 6-foot-9 Leunen hit a 3-pointer, starting a 15-5 run that gave the Ducks an advantage they needed.
Bryce Taylor, who finished with 14 points, capped the run with a pair of 3’s that put the Ducks up 54-43.
“We did a great job of staying poised and realizing what kind of game we were in,” Brooks said. “We’ve matured a lot from a couple of years ago, and showed that getting this win.”
Miami ended the season as the only team in the country not to give up more than 70 points in a game.