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Oregon's season ends with loss to Wisconsin in the quarterfinals of NIT

Oregon guard Rivaldo Soares fights past Wisconsin guard Max Klesmit as the Oregon Ducks host Wisconsin in the quarterfinal round of the NIT Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore.
Oregon guard Rivaldo Soares fights past Wisconsin guard Max Klesmit as the Oregon Ducks host Wisconsin in the quarterfinal round of the NIT Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore.

The Ducks’ depleted lineup demonstrated it could blowout inferior teams through the first two rounds of the National Invitation Tournament.

On Tuesday, however, Oregon was unable to protect a late lead or stop a rally by traditional Big Ten power Wisconsin as it lost 61-58 in the quarterfinals of the NIT.

The Ducks’ season ended at home in front of a crowd of 3,384 at Matthew Knight Arena, when Quincy Guerrier’s deep 3-point prayer at the buzzer to force overtime hit off the rim.

“We didn’t get it done,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “We had our opportunities, guys played hard … we just didn’t play very smart.”

Just as their first two games of the tournament, the Ducks (21-15) were without injured starting center N’Faly Dante (ankle), point guard Will Richardson (hip) and guard Jermaine Couisnard (shoulder).

And still, Oregon led 55-51 with 2:24 to play when Wisconsin scored five straight to go up 56-55 with 1:41 to play.

Guerrier scored on a baseline drive for a layup as the Ducks went back up 57-56 with 1:26 left.

Oregon’s defense lost sight of Chucky Hepburn at the other end and the Badgers’ guard hit a wide-open 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining as Wisconsin went up 59-57.

“We figured he was going to take it, we said don’t leave him and we left him,” Altman said. “And that was out of a time out. That’s really disappointing.”

After misses by Keeshawn Barthelemy and Rivaldo Soares got Oregon in a deficit, Nate Bittle was fouled on a put-back attempt and the sophomore center went to the free-throw line with 11 seconds left with a chance to tie the score but he went 1-for-2 to keep the Badgers on top.

Wisconsin made it a three-point game with free throws with 2.2 to go leading to Guerrier’s final attempt.

Barthelemy led the Ducks with 15 points and Guerrier had 14 points and eight rebounds. Bittle, who had back-to-back career-high scoring games in the first two rounds, was held to seven points, though he also had seven rebounds.

Oregon outshot Wisconsin 44%-33% but were outrebounded 44-35 and made just four of its 12 free-throw attempts.

“That’s really disappointing,” Altman said. “You can’t have a Division I team go 4-for-12. I told them on Oct. 1 and I’ve told them 20 times since then, there’s nothing more disappointing than to play hard and lose a game at the line.”

The Ducks were down 27-26 at halftime as they trailed going into the break for the first time during their NIT run.

Oregon had chances to take the lead going into halftime but missed on its final three shots — all 3-pointers — in the final minutes as Wisconsin also missed its last five shots.

The Ducks struggled from deep throughout the first half when they made just one of their nine attempts. They finished 6-for-21 from 3-point range.

Altman voices displeasure with attendance

Tuesday's crowd size led to a postgame rant from Altman, who thought a 20-win Oregon team facing a program with the stature of Wisconsin should have been enough to fill more seats.

“We shoulda had more people here tonight, alright? I mean … 3,300 people? It’s not good enough," he said. "If it’s me, then get rid me. If you need someone else to be a promoter, do something, but 3,300 people’s embarrassing. It really is.”

Follow Chris Hansen on Twitter @chansen_RG or email at chansen@registerguard.com.

This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Oregon Ducks knocked out of NIT by Wisconsin Badgers