SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Once the game ended and Oregon had narrowly advanced with a hard-fought NCAA Tournament win, Tyler Dorsey considered his two missed free throws with 3:36 left and how there might have been no celebrations at all.
Instead, Dorsey delivered two clutch 3-pointers to send the Ducks back to the Sweet Sixteen for a second straight year and third in five years.
Dorsey hit a contested go-ahead 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 38.4 seconds to play, then E.C. Matthews airballed a long 3 in the waning moments trying to force overtime, and third-seeded Oregon rallied in the second half to beat upstart No. 11 Rhode Island 75-72 on Sunday and reach the Midwest Regional.
“During the game I had to let it go. There was 2 minutes left, I dropped them and I had to keep playing, and we kept playing and kept fighting and hit the glass and got crucial offensive rebounds,” Dorsey said. “I just hit some big shots.”
With Oregon’s season on the brink, Dorsey and Dillon Brooks came through in the clutch as they have so many times this season.
Dorsey also tied the game with a 3 with 1:45 remaining on the way to 27 points before Brooks took a charge on the other end for Oregon (31-5).
Brooks found his shooting stroke as he typically does and scored 19 points despite a 7-for-20 shooting day. Dorsey made 9 of 10 shots with four 3-pointers.
Rhode Island nearly scrapped and hustled its way into the next round, with Stanford Robinson matching his career high of 21 points as the Rams (25-10) had their nine-game winning streak snapped to end the season.
Dorsey missed two free throws with 3:36 left but made up for it.
The Ducks led early behind Dorsey’s fast start, but Rhode Island grabbed momentum late in the first half.
URI closed the first half on a 14-2 run – including 7-0 over the final 1:30 with Matthews’ three-point play at 52.6 – in the last 3:23.
Robinson helped the bench contribute 30 points. He grinned from ear to ear after sinking a mid-range jumper at the 14:02 mark of the second half and Rhode Island appeared poised for another upset after stunning Creighton in the first round two days earlier.
The Rams kept crashing the offensive glass to create extra chances. They hit the court for loose balls. But Rhode Island missed a big stat line from star Hassan Martin, who had no points or rebounds playing just 14 minutes because of foul trouble.
Oregon committed 14 turnovers and failed to secure key defensive rebounds playing again without injured big man Chris Boucher, who tore the ACL in his left knee during the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals.
“That defense we faced is as good as any defense we faced all year,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “We were very fortunate today with our turnovers to get that done.”
Rhode Island exhibited the kind of good, old-fashioned hustle fifth-year coach Dan Hurley’s dad taught: Like Kuran Iverson’s putback with 10:53 left and a block of Brooks’ shot moments later on the other end.
Robinson, a transfer from Indiana who sat out last season, responded after being held to two points on 1-for-5 shooting against Creighton. The junior guard had gone just 2 of 9 over his two previous games, but shot 10 for 12 on his biggest stage yet.
Hurley hugged and comforted his distraught players, who captured the Atlantic 10 championship to earn the program’s first NCAA bid in 18 years then won the first NCAA Tournament game by the school since advancing to the 1998 Elite Eight and losing to Stanford.
“An amazing season for us, conference champions, the run we’ve been on, the heart we showed today and the high level of play,” Hurley said.
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