The Duke Blue Devils survived Marshall Plumlee's first-half foul trouble. They stuck around despite Grayson Allen's struggles. They just couldn't hold off the Oregon Ducks' second-half barrage.
Dillon Brooks scored a team-high 22 points, and five Ducks scored in double figures as Oregon moved on to the Elite Eight with an 82-68 victory Thursday in Anaheim, California.
The Ducks, who entered the NCAA men's basketball tournament as a controversial No. 1 seed, are headed to the regional final for the first time since 2007. With a win over the second-seeded Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, Oregon would reach the Final Four for the first time since winning the 1938-39 national championship.
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Head coach Dana Altman's team, which had a reputation as a defensive sieve for part of the season, locked down the sweet-shooting Blue Devils. Duke was 7-of-22 from three-point range and shot 44.1 percent overall. Oregon, meanwhile, shot 49.2 percent from the field and went 10-of-23 from deep.
Brooks, who has emerged as a player NBA scouts need to keep an eye on going forward, tortured Duke with his playmaking on the wing. He added six assists and five rebounds to his 22 points, knocking down four threes as part of a 9-of-19 shooting effort. ESPN's Jay Williams complimented Brooks' aggressiveness:
“I think he’s their best player,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Brooks, per Joseph D'Hippolito of the News & Observer. “He’s probably as versatile a player as I’ve seen. He does everything. He rebounds. He defends. He hits threes.”
Elgin Cook finished with his 12th straight game in double figures with 16 points. The senior did most of his work inside, hitting six of his eight shots and grabbing nine rebounds. Justin Hopkins of 247Sports came away impressed:
Also playing a starring role for Oregon was Jordan Bell, whose 13-point performance was his seventh in double figures all season. The freshman was a defensive bugaboo for Duke all night, blocking three Blue Devils shots, grabbing two steals and bringing in seven rebounds. The Ducks got into the meme game after one Bell slam:
Chris Boucher and Casey Benson scored 11 points apiece. Benson also added eight assists as Oregon set a season high with 22 dimes.
Fifty-two of Duke's 68 points points came from the trio of Brandon Ingram, Luke Kennard and Allen. Ingram single-handedly kept the Blue Devils in the game for stretches, scoring 24 points in what will almost certainly be his final collegiate game. The freshman forward hit a pair of threes, used his length to dish out three assists and did everything he could to carry the offense despite his teammates' struggles.
“Brandon brings a lot to the table,” Brooks said, per Steve Mims of the Register-Guard. “He’s long and he shoots the three well and he’s 6'9". We’ve never played a player like that.”
The performance was enough for ESPN's Dick Vitale to make Ingram his No. 1 pick:
While Ingram did not carry Duke to a national championship like Jahlil Okafor, he acquitted himself well on the March stage. He scored 20-plus points in three straight games, spearheading a pair of single-digit wins in the process.
But his supporting cast was lacking. On Thursday, Allen's production in particular felt like empty calories. He was second on the team with 15 points, but he shot 4-of-13 from the field and was absent in the first half. Dan Carson of Fox Sports had the perfect GIF for the situation:
Kennard came through with a 13-point, 11-rebound night in a hustle-filled performance. However, the freshman was good on just one of his five threes.
The issue came elsewhere on the roster. No other Duke player beyond its top three had more than six points.
Plumlee, burdened by foul trouble in the first half, never got into a rhythm. He finished with six points and five rebounds in his final day with the Blue Devils. Matt Jones was scoreless until there were three minutes, 31 seconds remaining before hitting a pair of garbage-time threes.
For Oregon, this win represented a justification of its seeding. The Ducks were widely derided after earning a top seed over Michigan State and nearly succumbing to the pressure against St. Joseph's. A win against Oklahoma and National Player of the Year front-runner Buddy Hield would be the biggest of Altman's career.
In terms of star power and underlying statistics, Oregon will be the underdog. But if the tournament has taught us anything, it's that the Ducks excel when facing public doubt.
Brooks provided a quote on an interaction he had with Krzyzewski, per Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated:
Bell was happy to prove Oregon's reputation incorrect, per ESPN.com: "I think we don't have a history of being a basketball school, but I think we did some great things this year to prove we deserve it. I think we played one of our best games this year. Everybody, not just including me. I think we showed everybody we're a good team."
Altman discussed the disparity of the two programs, per ESPN.com: "Duke is a household name. Coach K, I have a great deal of respect. So yeah, our guys knew the significance of playing Duke, defending national title, all the Final Fours, all the national championships that their program has been able to win. It was a different feel to it."
Coach K offered his take: "They were the better team, that was pretty obvious. They knocked us back. They were always in control of the game. Right at the end, I thought we could do a Texas A&M (comeback) ... but then amazing things have to happen."
Check out Bleacher Report's live updating bracket to track your picks along the road to the Final Four.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.