ANAHEIM, Calif.—From tipping off at 10:10 p.m. Eastern time to a blazer-less Mike Krzyzewski at the first media timeout, not much was normal for Duke at the start of Thursday’s showdown against Oregon.
Things did not get much better the rest of the way.
The top-seeded Ducks used a balanced offensive attack to put an end to the Blue Devils’ season with an 82-68 victory Thursday in the Sweet 16 at the Honda Center. Coming into the game as one of the best defensive teams in the country, Oregon held Duke to just 7-of-22 shooting from deep and secured a 42-32 rebounding advantage, and five Ducks finished in double-figures, led by sophomore Dillon Brooks' 22 points.
“They were just a better team tonight,” junior Matt Jones said. "It’s the gift and the curse of the NCAA tournament—you only have one day, one game to give it all you’ve got and they were the better team today."
The Blue Devils (25-11) struggled to adjust to a versatile and athletic Oregon squad that got up and down the floor in a hurry. Freshman Brandon Ingram finished with a game-high 24 points, but sophomore Grayson Allen was held to three first-half points and never got into a rhythm despite finishing with 15.
Center Marshall Plumlee picked up his second foul with 14:37 remaining in the first half, and backup big man Chase Jeter came to the scorer’s table to check in at the next stoppage of play. Plumlee returned in the first half and avoided picking up his third personal, but only secured five rebounds as the Ducks (31-6) controlled the glass.
The loss marked the final game of the big man’s five-year college career, and the last of eight straight seasons with at least one Plumlee brother on the Duke roster.
“Marshall has been a big brother to me since the moment I stepped on campus last year and it’s been a lot of fun to play with him and share emotion,” Allen said. “It’s like separating a family at the end of the day because of how close we’ve become."
The Ducks exploited the absence of Duke’s best interior defender, penetrating through the paint to set up open perimeter jumpers. Oregon hit four first-half 3-pointers to the Blue Devils' two and got 12 points from Brooks, who added five rebounds and six assists by the end of the night.
Ingram was the only Blue Devil who found consistent success against an athletic Oregon defense and hurt the Ducks in multiple ways to keep Duke hanging around. Ingram headed to the locker room with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including a pair of triples to keep Duke’s deficit at just 36-31 at intermission.
But Oregon began the second-half with a burst on offense that threatened to put the Blue Devils in a big hole.
Propelled by back-to-back threes by sophomore Casey Benson, the Ducks built an 11-point lead two minutes into the second half. Oregon put the pedal to the metal, speeding up the game by turning defense into offense. Off of a Jordan Bell block, the Ducks pushed the ball up the floor for an Elgin Cook transition dunk, putting Oregon ahead 52-41 with 14:20 remaining.
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“The threes [Benson] hit to start the second half, I thought we were in a good mood to get going and he knocked down those two,” Krzyzewski said. "To get eight assists and only one turnover, he's like an unsung hero for their team, with all the athletes and the blocked shots and all of that.”
With Allen still struggling to get open looks and the Blue Devils cold from downtown, Duke became a one-man show with Ingram trying to will his team to victory. Although the freshman scored seven consecutive points in a 4:30 span in the second half, the Blue Devils never drew closer than six.
Oregon patiently worked the ball around Duke’s zone defense and found Brooks possession after possession near the free-throw line, where he could distribute to teammates. But on the other end of the court, the Blue Devils’ drives to the basket were often too soft to finish against the athletic duo of Cook and Bell, who combined for four blocks.
“You think you're open and then they're so good laterally and then they have guys that go vertical,” Krzyzewski said. “That combination, if you do get past the lateral on the drive—boom, the other stuff is there. That combination was, to me, something you just don't face very often.”
After Duke cut the margin to nine, the Ducks responded emphatically with a dunk by Chris Boucher and a 3-pointer by freshman Tyler Dorsey that stretched Oregon’s lead back to 14. Another triple by Brooks a few possessions later proved to be the dagger and stretched the Ducks' lead to 16, and Duke could not recover.
Oregon will take on second-seeded Oklahoma in the Elite Eight Saturday, looking to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1939.