SPOKANE, Wash. — Dillon Brooks and his Oregon teammates were glued to their televisions, watching and keeping up on the craziness happening elsewhere in the NCAA Tournament.
As other higher seeds faltered, the Ducks wanted no part of joining that group and being remembered for the wrong reasons.
“I was kind of scared to be honest,” Brooks said. “We have been making a lot of history @ Oregon, but I didn’t want to make that kind of history.”
Carrying the marquee for the underachieving Pac-12, No. 1 seed Oregon showed no nerves playing as a top seed and rolled past No. 16 seed Holy Cross 91-52 on Friday night in a West Regional first-round game.
Chris Boucher led Oregon (29-6) with 20 points, while Brooks and Elgin Cook both added 11 points as the Ducks won their ninth straight and advanced to the round of 32 for the fourth straight season.
With nearly all of the Pac-12 making a quick exit out of the NCAA Tournament, the Ducks used their overwhelming athleticism to quickly build a double-digit lead and never allowed the Crusaders to sniff a potential 16-seed upset. Boucher slammed a trio of lob dunks in the first 12 minutes and the expected blowout quickly developed.
It’s played out just as Oregon coach Dana Altman hoped, taking control early and allowing his stars a chance to rest in the second half. No one for Oregon played more than 26 minutes and Boucher was on the floor for just 17 minutes.
“We came out and set the tone early and never really let them get into the game. That’s a tribute to the guys for getting themselves ready,” Altman said.
Altman was worried about the Ducks being tight in the opening stages, given the attention that came with the No. 1 seed, a Pac-12 tournament title and a long win streak. Any nerves didn’t last long. Oregon scored the first seven points before Boucher’s dunking display, using his 6-foot-10 frame to slam a pair of lobs from Brooks and one from Cook.
Oregon led by as many as 19 in the first half and led by as many as 42 in the second half. Most of Oregon’s starters were on the bench resting with more than 10 minutes remaining in the second half, including Cook who got showered with water after a deflected pass knocked a cup out of his hand. Cook also grabbed 13 rebounds as Oregon dominated the backboard holding a 44-28 advantage.
Robert Champion led Holy Cross (15-20) with 22 points off the bench, but the Crusaders played tentative from the start and never put any worry into Oregon. Holy Cross was perhaps the biggest surprise to make the NCAA Tournament field after winning the Patriot League championship as the No. 9 seed by winning four straight road games and knocking of Lehigh in the title game. The Crusaders knocked off Southern in the First Four for their first NCAA victory since 1953 and the right to face Oregon.
But the difference in athleticism was evident immediately. Leading scorer Malachi Alexander finished with 10 points on 3 of 9 shooting but it was all difficult. Even late in the second half when it appeared Alexander had an open layup the long arms of Oregon’s defenders were there to reject the shot.
“They just made us uncomfortable on offense,” Alexander said.
WAIT ANOTHER YEAR
Holy Cross coach Bill Carmody was an assistant when Princeton nearly stunned Georgetown in 1989 as a No. 16 seed. The wait for a No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed will have to wait another year as Holy Cross was the last shot for 2016.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t give a better account of ourselves. Oregon had something to do with that,” Carmody said.
Holy Cross: The Crusaders played two NCAA Tournament games for the first time since reaching the regional finals in 1953 before losing to LSU. … The Crusaders lost by double-digits for the 13th time this season.
Oregon: Cook became the first Oregon player in school history to appear in three NCAA Tournaments during his career. … Freshman Roman Sorkin played most of the final 11 minutes, his most action since the first month of the season. He had seven points.
Holy Cross: Season over.
Oregon: The Ducks will face either No. 8 seed Saint Joseph’s or No. 9 seed Cincinnati on Sunday.