EUGENE, Ore. (AP)—When Joevan Catron saw teammate E.J. Singler put his shoulder down and drive toward the basket, he knew exactly what was coming next.
“That running 1-footer off the glass,” Catron said. “He works on that shot all the time in practice.”
In his final college game, Catron scored a career-high 29 points to lead the Ducks (21-18), earning tournament MVP honors. Singler finished with 15.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Catron, a fifth-year senior. “It was a long, hard ride and tonight was it, win or lose.”
Oregon coach Dana Altman, in his first season with the Ducks, won a championship against the Creighton team he left last spring after 16 years.
“I’d have felt terrible if we would have lost tonight, (but) I don’t feel as good as I should for winning,” Altman said. “You spend 16 years at a place, it’s kind of hard to wish against those guys. I saw all the heartbreak in their eyes just like our guys would have been heartbroken.”
Antoine Young had 21 points and seven assists for the Bluejays (23-16). Doug McDermott added 13 points, Gregory Echenique had 12 and Kenny Lawson Jr. 11.
The game featured 16 lead changes and seven ties in the final 15:19, beginning when Oregon’s Malcolm Armstead made it 38-all on a layup in transition and ending with Singler’s go-ahead basket as time was running out.
“E.J. put his nose down, and there was a lot of bumping going on but he found a way to finish it,” Altman said. “It was a tough shot.”
This marked the third time in the four-year history of the CBI that the best-of-three championship series went to a deciding third game. Tulsa (2008) and Oregon State (2009) previously won the series in three games. Last year, Virginia Commonwealth—which plays Butler in the Final Four on Saturday night— became the only team to claim the crown in a two-game sweep.
The Ducks lost the opener of this year’s series 84-76 on Monday before forcing a third game with a 71-58 win over the Bluejays on Wednesday.
Catron was 11 for 17 from the field, his last basket coming with 58.9 seconds left to tie it at 67. Echenique put Creighton ahead with a two-handed slam with 45.6 seconds to go before Oregon guard Garrett Sim answered with his only basket of the game, a layup with 33.3 seconds to play to tie it 69-all.
Following a timeout, Young was called for an over-and-back violation when he backpedaled across the halfcourt line as he attempted to dribble some time off the clock, giving the ball to Oregon with 17.2 seconds remaining and setting up Singler’s shot.
“I think you’re just used to seeing the black line,” Young said. “You don’t really expect it to come into play until it does.”
The halfcourt line on Oregon’s home floor has received much scrutiny since the $227 million arena opened in January.
The line, which is more of an outline on the floor than a distinct black or white stripe, is nearly impossible to see for both fans in the arena and television viewers. But until Friday, it was never an issue for an opposing team.
“It’s tough, it’s really tough,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “This is a beautiful building and a great atmosphere—you just wish there was a visible halfcourt line. That’s a tough way to lose a game.”
The win ended Oregon’s longest season ever and gave the Ducks their first postseason basketball championship since the Tall Firs won the first NCAA tournament in 1939.
Altman credited Catron with getting the Ducks as far as they went this season. Catron averaged 20.7 points and nine rebounds during the tournament.
“When people picked us 10th (in the Pac-10), and there were people saying we wouldn’t win a conference game, Joevan Catron was the guy,” Altman said. “Without his leadership we wouldn’t have had this success.”
Oregon led 17-9—the largest advantage of the game for either team—near the midway point of the first half.
The Ducks were still up 24-18 with 5:19 to play in the half when Lawson knocked down 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to cut Oregon’s lead to 26-24. Young hit a jumper with 2:01 left to put the Bluejays up 30-29 for their first lead of the game.
Tyrone Nared made a pair of free throws on the Ducks’ ensuing possession to give Oregon a 31-30 advantage at the break, but Creighton scored the first six points of the second half to go up 36-31.