Published January 13, 2015
Dwayne Evans choked up talking about how he will remember his junior season at Saint Louis. Finally, he pulled his shirt over his head and walked off the stage.
From the death of coach Rick Majerus in December to all the uncertainty that followed, it was one of the few questions the Billikens had no answer for this year.
Kwamain Mitchell scored 18 points and Evans had 16 points and nine rebounds as fourth-seeded Saint Louis' storybook season came to an emotional end with a 74-57 loss to Oregon in the third round of the NCAA tournament Saturday night.
"It's been a good ride this year," said Evans, fighting back tears. "Probably one of the funnest years of basketball I've ever played. And it's had the most adversity, so it's ironic."
Despite all it had to endure, Saint Louis (28-7) set a school record for wins this season and won the Atlantic 10 before settling for another first-weekend exit in the NCAA tournament. The Billikens lost in the round of 32 last season to No. 1 seed Michigan State after snapping a 12-year tournament drought.
The deepest run the school ever made was to the quarterfinals in 1952, when there were only 16 teams in the tournament.
"This was a crazy road that we took, actually," Saint Louis forward Cory Remekun said. "All the things that happened to us, all the people leaving, transfers, Coach, and we still made it to the NCAA tournament. It shows that we're fighters."
Oregon's size and speed just overwhelmed Saint Louis from the start.
Damyean Dotson scored 23 points and Carlos Emory added 14 points for the hot-shooting Ducks, who went 8 of 11 from beyond the arc. Dotson made his first five 3-pointers to propel No. 12 seed Oregon (28-8) into the second weekend for the first time since 2007, when it lost to eventual repeat champion Florida in the regional final.
After the NCAA selection committee turned some heads for seeding Oregon so low, the Ducks dismissed two favorites by a combined 30 points in San Jose. Oregon will play No. 1 overall seed Louisville in the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis next. The Cardinals routed Colorado State 82-56 in Lexington, Ky.
"We just decided as a team we're going to go out there and we don't care who we're going to play," said Oregon's Arsalan Kazemi, who had eight points and 16 rebounds.
The Ducks' defense extended into a full-court press, forcing Saint Louis to play faster than it wanted. With a series of stops providing easy breakaways, Oregon's bright black-and-yellow uniforms blurred all over the court.
The open space played perfectly into what the Ducks do best: find seams and shoot. Dotson, Emory and E.J. Singler (14 points) each made a 3-pointer before Johnathan Loyd capped the 25-8 run to end the half with another from the top of the arc in the final seconds, lifting his hand in the air after giving Oregon a 35-19 lead at the break.
The Billikens finished 3 for 21 from long range and shot 38 percent overall.
"We're very, very disappointed with the night. But one night's not going to overshadow what the whole big picture is of Saint Louis' program and these kids, what they've gone through this year," interim coach Jim Crews said.
The Billikens blitzed the Ducks in the first few minutes of the second half. Evans converted two quick layups and Mitchell made a 3-pointer to slice Oregon's lead to 37-26.
The small sprinkling of blue-and-white faithful that sat behind the Saint Louis bench stood and cheered. A few brief bursts withstanding, the arena had an overwhelming Pac-12 flavor as Oregon and California — which was facing Syracuse in the night session as part of the East bracket — flooded the facility with fans.
The Ducks built the lead back to 44-28 carried by their defense, including Loyd stealing the ball from blue-haired Cody Ellis and finishing strong with a layup on the other end. Saint Louis made a couple of late runs but never got closer than 11 points.
"They're not the average 12 seed," Remekun said.
The Billikens had to endure a few late highlights that will surely illuminate Oregon's run even more. The Ducks just about put the game away when Dotson tossed a midair bounce pass down the sideline for Emory, whose corner 3-pointer put Oregon ahead 58-39 with 8:16 remaining.
Dotson is 16 of 30 from beyond the arc since the start of the Pac-12 tournament. He had been 0 for 12 from long range in the five previous games.
Kazemi added to the rout by finishing an alley-oop from Loyd late. The Iranian-born player has grabbed 33 rebounds in the first two tournament games.
Indeed, the Quack Attack has been at its best this March.
Shedding its seeding more with every game, there is no doubting this team anymore. All the Ducks have done is tie for second place in the Pac-12 in the regular season, win the conference tournament and beat No. 5 seed Oklahoma State 68-55 before sending Saint Louis home.