by Rob Moseley
MILWAUKEE — An hour before tipoff Thursday, while many of Oregon's players were at a nearby TV watching Dayton finish off an upset of Ohio State, Dana Altman was pacing the UO locker room.
"Simple plays, simple plays," Altman said aloud — to himself as much as anybody, since only a couple of players were in the locker room at that point.
The refrain, a common one from Altman, was being reinforced yet again. Once the Ducks tipped it off against BYU an hour later, it's clear they'd received the message.
In one of its most complete performances of the season, the Oregon men's basketball team beat the Cougars, 87-68, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Ducks won NCAA Tournament games in consecutive seasons for the first time ever, and set up a third-round game Saturday against No. 2 seed Wisconsin, and what's sure to be an arena full of Badgers fans.
"I don't think the crowd's going to be in our favor," Altman told his players after they beat BYU. "So we're going to have to be tough as nails."
Again. Because the Ducks definitely were that Thursday.
A guard-oriented team that gets most of its points from the perimeter, Oregon managed a season-low two three-pointers Thursday, one in each half. But the Ducks played so well in every other facet, they easily dispatched of the Cougars, except for a brief moment of tension in the second half.
"Obviously we like to shoot a lot of threes, but it's not always going to fall," senior guard Jason Calliste said. "We have to figure out other ways to win the game."
The Ducks (24-9) led by as many as 15 in the first half, before taking a 39-31 advantage into halftime.
In a rare extended defensive lapse, Oregon surrendered points on eight straight possessions and BYU closed within 56-53 on a Matt Carlino three-pointer. The Ducks took a timeout, then answered with a 22-6 run, capped by their only three of the second half, from Calliste.
"It was actually pretty calm, to be honest," senior forward Mike Moser said of the timeout after Carlino's three. "We just knew we had to get back to the intensity we were playing at before. Right after that we got stops and rebounds, had layups on the offensive end and got to the free-throw line. From there, we were good."
Coming out of the timeout, the Ducks looked to an unlikely source to end the BYU run. Point guard Johnathan Loyd found Milwaukee native Elgin Cook in the post, and he added an and-one to spark Oregon's 22-6 run.
Those were three of Cook's season-high 23 points, on 8-of-9 shooting. Joseph Young made 7-of-12 for 19 points and Calliste added 14, as the Ducks shot an even .500 for the game.
At the other end, BYU managed just .281 shooting in the first half — its worst mark of the year at halftime — and .379 in the second, just the second time all season the Cougars were under .400 in both halves. BYU obviously missed point guard Kyle Collinsworth, who tore a knee ligament in the West Coast Conference Tournament, but Oregon's defense was strong throughout the game.
"We played our best defense of the year," Young said. "We've been harping on defensive intensity, and it was very good."
On Wednesday, Altman said the keys to victory were hustling back on defense, containing prolific BYU guard Tyler Haws and keeping the rebounding margin close. The Ducks allowed 12 fastbreak points — five fewer than when they faced the Cougars in December — while keeping Haws to 19 points and winning the battle under the boards, 37-32.
"I really liked your toughness today," Altman told the team postgame.
As usual, Altman made note of the assist-to-turnover ratio with his players after the game. In this case, he could highlight 21 assists on 27 baskets, against just eight turnovers.
In other words, the Ducks were sticking to those simple plays Altman wanted to see. And converting them.
"Everybody got a touch, everybody got involved in the game," Calliste said. "Nobody was standing and watching. We're pretty hard to guard when we move the ball."
Calliste aided Damyean Dotson in defending Haws, the third-leading scorer in the nation among NCAA Tournament qualifiers. Haws needed 18 shots to get his 19 points, while Collinsworth's replacements, Carlino and Frank Bartley IV, combined to shoot just 7-of-26.
"Just make him hit tough ones," Dotson said of his strategy against Haws. "We knew he was going to shoot a lot of threes. So we just tried to go under some of their screens, stay aggressive with him and not let him get easy looks."
NOTES: UO has now won NCAA Tournament games in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history. Oregon improves to 15-10 all-time in the NCAA Tournament ... Playing in his hometown, Elgin Cook scored a career-high 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting while leading the team in rebounds (8) ... UO has now won 76 games over the last three seasons, which sets a new school record for most wins in a three-year span. Earlier this season, the Ducks set the record for wins in a four-year period; today’s victory pushed that record to 97 ... Johnathan Loyd made his 143rd appearance in an Oregon uniform, setting a new program record ... With 19 points, Joseph Young now has 614 points on the season - ranking eighth best in UO record books ... The Ducks had a season-high 49 bench points, outscoring BYU 49-10 in that category ... Oregon made 31 free throws (31-38), its most since hitting 35 from the charity stripe in the second game of the season ... Oregon shot 50% or better from the floor for the 11th time this season while limiting BYU to just 33% shooting ... Johnathan Loyd moved to ninth in UO’s top 10 assists in a season list (156) after assisting a team-high six baskets.