Two athletic basketball teams locked horns in the Spokane Arena on Sunday night, but the No. 1 seed Oregon Ducks found enough defense to erase a seven-point deficit to beat St. Joseph’s 69-64.
The No. 8 seeded Hawks took a 58-51 lead with 5:31 to play, but Ducks’ coach Dana Altman inserted a press defense that created enough havoc and turnovers to fuel Oregon’s 18-6 run to finish off the win.
“I’m not very pleased with how we played,” Altman said. “But we found a way to win. That’s the bottom line this time of year.”
Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks hit back-to-back three-pointers under two minutes to play to give Oregon a 64-62 lead.
St. Joseph’s DeAndre’ Bembry then made a layup to get the Hawks within three points at 67-64 with a few seconds left. The Hawks had the ball, but Bembry lost the ball under pressure and Oregon (30-6) was able to secure the win.
“I blame this loss on me,” said Bembry, who led the Hawks with 16 points and 12 rebounds. “I can’t turn the ball over at the end of the game like that.”
Altman earlier said that his Ducks struggled when they failed to win the battle of rebounds. The Hawks (28-8) won that battle 37-35.
“That was one of those games that we’re going to look back on and say, ‘We just found a way to win it,’ ” Altman said.
St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli said his team simply didn’t make enough plays at the end to pull out a victory.
“I give them a lot of credit, because they rose to the occasion, too,” Martelli said of Oregon. “They made it daunting. We were there, by the skin of our teeth we almost were able to pull out a victory against a very good team.”
Brooks led all scorers with 25 points. Elgin Cook also scored 18 for Oregon, and Dorsey had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Ducks, which only shot 39.6 percent from the floor.
Lamarr Kimble scored 11 points, while Shavar Newkirk and Aaron Brown both had 10 for St. Joseph’s, which shot 39.6 percent.
Bembry said Oregon’s matchup zone caused the Hawks to struggle in finding openings to shoot and lanes to drive to the basket.
“It’s really a good, crazy matchup zone. In the first half, that’s why we had eight turnovers,” he said. “We didn’t make smart plays.”
When Oregon got down late in the game, the players didn’t start griping at each other in the huddle, Altman said.
“There was no finger pointing or anything,” he said. “Once we got them calmed down and convinced them that (defense) was the key, then I think we had a chance.”
With the Spokane Arena mostly cheering on the Ducks, Oregon found a way.
“They won 28 games. We knew we were going to have our hands full,” Altman said. “So, we feel very fortunate to be moving on.”