by Rob Moseley
It involves many, many flights between Eugene and the Midwest.
But if it would mean more outbursts like Thursday's, when the Milwaukee native Cook led all scorers with 23 points in Oregon's 87-68 win over BYU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament? Get comfortable in coach class, Cook family.
"That's a hell of a game!" Altman said Thursday in his postgame remarks to the team. "We've got to get your whole family out to Eugene, man. That was great."
With starter Mike Moser saddled by foul trouble, Cook made sure the Ducks still got production from the "four" spot by making 8-of-9 shots. Among his eight rebounds were four on the offensive end, including two spectacular putbacks on consecutive possessions early in the second half.
Cook easily exceeded his previous UO high of 18 points, against San Francisco back in November.
"I definitely did envision this," Cook said of his triumphant homecoming. "But if I had 23 points in a loss, it wouldn't matter. So it's definitely good we won."
Cook took to heart Altman's oft-repeated desire for "simple plays" on offense. He patrolled the baseline when the Ducks had the ball, and when a UO guard would attack BYU's zone, Cook positioned himself for easy passes and baskets.
"Our guys did a great job of finding him," Altman said. "But his movement, finding holes in the zone? Really good."
Oregon's ball movement was a strength all day, as the Ducks finished with 21 assists on 27 baskets, and just eight turnovers.
"I think we got better as a team today," Cook said. "We played team defense, and we rebounded the ball as a team."
Cook contributed to the Ducks outscoring BYU 36-14 in the post, and 49-10 off the bench. Oregon's depth has been a huge asset in the postseason, leading the team to its Pac-12 Tournament win over Oregon State and again Thursday.
Altman would like to see depth provide a decisive edge again Saturday, when the seventh-seeded Ducks face No. 2 seed Wisconsin in the third round.
"Elgin had the day today; I don't know who will do it Saturday, but we've got to be ready to go," Altman told his players in the locker room.
Thursday's games were played before a sea of red-clad Badgers fans. The Ducks expect the same Saturday.
"It's going to be a tough game," Cook said. "The crowd is definitely going to be in favor of Wisconsin, and I'm looking forward to it."
Two Ducks were able to put previous NCAA Tournament disappointments behind them after Thursday's win.
Of the eight UO players with prior experience, six were on the Oregon team that reached the Sweet Sixteen last season. The exceptions were Mike Moser and Jason Calliste, who suffered defeats while playing for other schools prior to transferring to Oregon.
Moser and UNLV lost to Cal in the second round last year, and Calliste was on the Detroit team that lost to Kansas in 2012. Calliste said earlier in the week that the defeat still stung.
"I can let that one go now," Calliste said with a smile, following Oregon's win over BYU.
Moser was happy to do the same.
"That's exactly how it is," Moser said. "You can forget about all that. This is all that matters now."
Oregon's extended run late in Thursday's game opened up a lead of as much as 25, and allowed Altman to play everyone who suited up for the game.
That included the team's three walk-ons. Brian Crow played two minutes, while Nicholas Lucenti and Theo Friedman played the final minute. Crow and Lucenti each missed a shot, but that couldn't take the shine off appearing in the NCAA Tournament.
"It's the best feeling in the world," said Lucenti, who also made a brief appearance in last year's tournament. "You dream about it as a kid. It definitely makes all the hard work worth it, no doubt about that."