EUGENE, Ore. (AP)—Oregon accepted an invitation to the CBI tournament at the behest of Joevan Catron. On Wednesday night, the fifth-year senior made sure the Ducks would get a shot at the championship.
Catron had 24 points and 11 rebounds and Oregon survived Boise State’s late comeback attempt for a 79-71 victory in the tournament’s semifinals.
Catron, who has had double-doubles in all three of Oregon’s CBI games, scored 14 of the Ducks’ final 16 points.
“I’m pretty happy,” Catron said. “We’re out there still battling to the end and hopefully we can finish this the right way.”
The victory puts the Ducks (19-17) into the best-of-three championship series against Creighton, the school first-year Oregon coach Dana Altman left last spring after 16 seasons and 13 postseason appearances.
The opening game is scheduled for Monday at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., with Game 2 on Wednesday in Eugene, and if necessary, Game 3 on Friday, also in Eugene.
“It’s going to be a little awkward,” Altman admitted. “But we’ll go play a basketball game and I hope the guys will play hard and do a good job. It will be different. … There’s some people disappointed that I left. I’m sure there are a lot of people glad that I left.”
E.J. Singler added 18 points for the Ducks, who made eight 3-pointers in the first half and then went 8 of 10 from the free throw line late to hold on after the Broncos (22-13) had cut a 20-point deficit to six with 1:21 to play.
Reggie Arnold led Boise State with 24 points and Tre Nichols had 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting in the second half.
The Ducks led 50-30 with 15:10 to play and were on the verge of running away with the game. But the Broncos rallied, slowly picking away at Oregon’s advantage until La’Shard Anderson scored on a layup and then a three-point play to make it 74-68 with 1:21 left.
But Catron twice broke free of Boise State’s press for long passes that led to a layup and a dunk to push the lead to 78-68 with 51 seconds left.
“That Oregon team’s playing with great confidence and when they had us down 20, it looked like it would get nasty,” said first-year Boise State coach Leon Rice, who was an assistant at Oregon under Don Monson from 1989-91. “But God bless these guys, they never give up.”
Catron finished 6 of 15 from the field overall and 12 for 14 from the free throw line. He was 4 of 4 from the field and 6 of 6 from the line over the final 5:27.
“He’s been our guy and he wanted the ball and you give it to him,” Altman said. “He’s kept our team going. … If it weren’t for Joevan saying ‘No, we’re going to keep going,’ we wouldn’t be winning a few ballgames.”
Oregon took a double-digit lead into halftime after Jay-R Strowbridge scored on a putback at the buzzer to make it 38-27.
The Ducks built their first-half lead from 3-point range, making 8 of 16 from there in the first 20 minutes. Singler led the way, scoring 13 in the first half with three 3-pointers.
After Teondre Williams put the Ducks up 17-13 with a 3-pointer, Singler scored the next 11 points as Oregon’s lead grew to 28-19 with 4:42 to play before halftime.
“Joevan is always double-teamed when we get him the ball so I just made myself available,” Singler said. “He saw me a couple of times out of doubles and I hit my shots.”