That combination proved deadly to fourth-seeded Saint Louis in the third round of the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional. Oregon held Saint Louis to 19 first-half points en route to a 16-point lead, then thwarted every Billikens comeback attempt with offensive rebounding and accurate long-range shooting en route to a 74-57 victory in the Round of 32 at HP Pavilion. The win sends the Ducks (28-8), the Midwest's 12th seed, on to the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis, where they'll face overall No. 1 seed Louisville on Friday. In earning its second Sweet 16 appearance in seven years, Oregon got season-best 23 points from freshman Dotson and 16 rebounds from Kazemi. Oregon also used a surprisingly effective zone defense to hold the Billikens, who shot 46.3 percent in its second-round win over New Mexico on Thursday, to just 37.7 percent from the field and 3-for-21 from beyond the 3-point arc. "I'm excited, our players are excited, I hope our fans are," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "I'm so happy for the guys because they executed everything. It was a team effort." The Billikens (28-7) missed 17 of their 24 shots, including all 10 of their 3's, in the first half while falling behind 35-19. But when Dwayne Evans opened the second half with a layup and then converted a Mike McCall Jr. steal into another easy hoop, the Atlantic-10 Conference champs suddenly had life. It was short-lived, however, as Saint Louis couldn't take advantage of an Oregon turnover and a missed shot on its next two possessions, matching each with a similar failure of its own. "We expected to come out and have a big second half and make some runs," said Evans, one of the few Billikens who shot well in the game (8-for-13, 16 points). "They got a bunch of offensive rebounds and we didn't get stops when we needed them. That's what killed us." Kazemi was the source of a lot of that. The senior transfer from Rice was a one-man show in a back-breaking sequence, rebounding three successive Oregon misses, including one of his own, and converting the third into a layup that ended the Ducks' drought and re-established a 37-23 advantage 2:16 into the half. "Some people come (to the NCAA Tournament) and try to show people what they can do," the Iranian-born Kazemi said. "I said I can help my team with rebounding, and I'm going to go out and get as many rebounds as possible. And I think I'm helping my team by giving them a chance to get wins." The Billikens got within 11 on three other occasions in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but never got closer due in equal parts to Oregon's ability to hit shots when it needed and their own failure to capitalize on what little momentum they gathered. "He's been a real difference-maker for us," Altman said of Kazemi, who had 17 rebounds in Thursday's second-round win over Oklahoma State. "We're not a good rebounding team without him." Emory and E.J. Singler added 14 points apiece for the Ducks, who shot 52.8 percent from the field. Dotson made five of his six 3's as Oregon went 8-for-11 from beyond the arc. Of all the things Oregon did well, the shooting was the most pleasant surprise for Altman. "You look at their defensive numbers. They were outstanding," Altman said of the Billikens. "We really wanted to try to get the ball up the floor quickly so they couldn't set their defense. When we got the transition going a little bit and they didn't get a chance to set it, I thought that's when it turned in our favor." Mitchell led Saint Louis with 18 points, but missed five of his seven 3's. Jett added 11, but likewise had trouble from beyond the arc (1-for-3). It was easy for Saint Louis interim coach Jim Crews to pinpoint the chief reason for his team's offensive downfall. "I'm not a big statistics guy, but they were 4-for-6 in the first half from 3 and we were 0-for-10," he observed. "It wasn't shooting. They were getting shots inside-out. We weren't getting shots inside-out. We were on the perimeter not looking inside the house. We were just staying outside the house." It took Oregon awhile to figure out the tight Saint Louis man-to-man defense, but once the Ducks got rolling, the only thing that could stop them in the first 20 minutes was the halftime horn en route to a shocking 35-19 lead. The Billikens had no answer for Oregon's zone defense. They settled for 3-pointers 10 times, failing to make one. NOTES: Oregon's trip to the Sweet 16 is the fifth for a 12th seed in the past six NCAA Tournaments. ... Saint Louis entered the game shooting 35.0 percent on 3's. ... The 19 first-half points were a season-low for the Billikens. ... Oregon outrebounded Saint Louis 38-27. ... The meeting was just the second between Oregon and Saint Louis. Their only previous game came in the Far West Classic in Portland in 1976, with Oregon winning 59-55. ... Saint Louis was bidding to reach the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. ... Saint Louis was held below 60 points for just the fourth time this season.
- Sports & Recreation
- Arsalan Kazemi