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Oregon Ducks soaking in the Sweet 16 & 'want to keep it going' originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest
The Oregon Ducks are in the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the Dana Altman era.
"I'm really proud of the guys," said Altman. "Man they played hard."
While the feeling may be familiar for the Ducks head coach, only Will Richardson saw playing time in 2019 when Oregon made the Sweet 16 last time.
"It feel great for everybody," explained Chris Duarte who transferred to Oregon ahead of last season.
"Especially for those guys that haven't been here like Eugene [Omoruyi], Eric [Williams Jr.], myself, and a couple more guys. It feel great."
Duarte was a starter on the 2019-20 team which won the Pac-12 conference before the postseason was shut down entirely due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
"I hope they appreciate the fact that we are playing," said Altman. "I felt so bad for our senior class last year... They came, they wanted to compete, they didn't get the chance."
As a result, the 2020-21 Oregon team has learned to take nothing for granted.
"We didn't get started until December because we had complications with teams we were supposed to play and then January was just a miserable month," recalled Altman referring to when Oregon underwent two COVID-19 related stoppages.
"Not being able to get into the gym, we had a couple guys [contract the virus], fortunately unsymptomatic... we had to get through January."
Now, Oregon is playing like one of the nation's best teams and will be one of the final sixteen teams standing.
Altman could not be prouder of his group.
"For the guys to fight back in February and March, win the conference and now make a little run, we just want to keep it going," said the Ducks head coach.
As Dana Altman-teams tend to do, the Ducks are playing their best basketball in March and it stems from unselfish ball movement allowing its shooters to hit open shots.
In Monday's win over No. 2 seeded Iowa, the Ducks had 25 assists.
"The ball movement was the key to our offense," explained Altman. "I love seeing 25 assists. I thought our guys were ready to shoot it but we had some good looks because we were moving the ball pretty good."
AP Pac-12 Player of the Year Chris Duarte had a career-high seven assists in the Round of 32 win.
"I'm just trusting my teammates and they trusting me. I'm making good plays for them," he said. "I just find my teammates wide open, they do a good job shooting the ball well."
The Ducks' late-season run went partially ignored by the selection committee who gave Oregon a No. 7 seed, but that hasn't phased the Ducks.
They're playing basketball. They're dancing. They're soaking it in.
"We just said to keep our foot on the gas and we did. We had a lot of fun," said Duarte.
"We are very very excited about it and we hope we... keep moving on."
Oregon will get its chance to advance to the program's first Elite Eight since 2016-17 when it plays the winner of USC-Kansas.