The game was by no means a cakewalk. Louisville was the Big East champion, the number one overall seed in the tournament, and a favorite to win it all. However, these were the Ducks with chips the size of steamrollers on their shoulders, a team that might have finished in the top five in the nation were it not for an injury to talented freshman Dominic Artis. Oklahoma State and its projected lottery pick in Markus Smart were not a match for them. A-10 champ Saint Louis did not fare any better. This was going to be a test for both sides.
In the end, Louisville walked away with a trip to the Elite Eight with a 77-69 victory that was far closer than the score showed.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR OREGON:
1) Containment of Peyton Silva. Despite picking up some early fouls, Jonathan Loyd and Dominic Artis frustrated Silva early, and even forced him to the bench early in the first half. Even when the offense was clicking for Louisville, Silva was rarely a component. He finished with just four points on 1-of 5 shooting, and only three assists.
2) Scoring of Arsalan Kazemi, Carlos Emory and E.J. Singler. Even when the rest of the offense was struggling with foul trouble and bad shot choices, Kazami and Singler managed to keep the Ducks close in the first half. After Louisville exploded on a 14-2 run, Kazemi, Emory and Singler rallied back to get the Ducks back within fight with just under four minutes left in the half. Into the second half, Kazemi fought hard on the boards, virtually shutting off second chance scoring opportunities for Louisville forward Chane Behanen.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR OREGON:
1) Fouls. The Ducks were handicapped early on with Loyd, Artis, and Emory all in early foul trouble. This allowed Louisville star Russ Smith to go wild, often driving to the basket with little resistance.
2) Forcing the offense. Too many times the Ducks tried to speed up the offense by trying half court passes that went out of bounds or were simply stolen by the Cardinals. This compounded with the early fouls put the Ducks in a hole that they never dug themselves out of.
3) The matchup that wasn't. Damyean Dotson and Russ Smith were supposed to be the pair to watch, two players capable of scoring at will on the drive or from range. Smith did his part to the tune of 31 points. Dotson did not hit a field goal until five minutes had elapsed in the second half. His 0-for-6 first half included three air balls, and overall poor shot selection. He finished with 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but it was too little, too late.
4) The battle in the paint. The Cardinals scored 42 points in the paint, 26 in the first half. Tony Woods found himself outmatched down low by Gorgui Dieng, and Montrezl Harrell harassed the Ducks all game long in the post.
Now the questions for Oregon include whether or not Artis and Dotson will return for a second year in Eugene, or head for the draft, and who will replace the front-court scoring of senior E.J. Singler. Coach Dana Altman has built a strong program in Oregon, and we can expect to see the Ducks playing at this time next year regardless.