San Jose, CA – Many thought Oregon sent a strong message to the NCAA selection committee by handling fifth-seeded Oklahoma State in its opener on Thursday.
On Saturday, the 12th-seeded Pac-12 champion Ducks proved once again that perhaps they should not have been overlooked, as the team cruised past Saint Louis, 74-57, in Midwest Region third-round action of the NCAA Tournament.
Damyean Dotson scored a game-high 23 points and connected on 5-of-6 shots from behind the arc for the Ducks (28-8), who advance past the opening weekend of play in the tournament for the first time since 2007. Carlos Emory and E.J. Singler supplied 14 points apiece and Arsalan Kazemi had eight points with 16 rebounds.
"We really wanted to try to get the ball up the floor quickly so they couldn't set their defense, because I really felt like we'd be in trouble if they got their defense set, and we were those early possessions," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "But then when we got the transition going a little bit and they didn't get a chance to set it, I thought that's when it turned in our favor."
Oregon moves on to face the tournament's overall top-seed, Louisville, in the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis next week.
Kwamain Mitchell netted 18 points and Dwayne Evans had 16 points and nine boards for the Billikens (28-7), who were looking to make the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history after downing New Mexico State, 64-44, in second-round play.
Evans scored the first four points of the second half to bring Saint Louis within 12 points, though the Ducks quickly extended the edge to 16 with 14:23 left. It was a theme that continued, as Oregon's edge never truly seemed in doubt.
Saint Louis closed the gap to 11 twice over the next couple of minutes, but the second time, Oregon took advantage of clean looks from behind the arc and changed the contest for good.
Jordair Jett's layup with 10:19 to play made it 48-37 to keep the Billikens alive, but Oregon went on a 15-2 run as Dotson had three triples to increase the margin to 24.
Saint Louis never found its groove offensively and finished shooting a mere 3- of-21 from behind the arc. The Billikens got as close as 14 points with 1:52 to play, but Oregon never looked back after the critical run.
"I know we have a team that's never just going to give up and roll over," Evans said. "We expected to come out and have a big second half and make some runs. But obviously they played better than us. We didn't get the job done."
Cody Ellis' jumper around the midway point of the first half put Saint Louis ahead 15-14, but Emory then answered with his own jumper to kick start a 14-2 Oregon surge to make it 28-17 with 4 1/2 minutes left before halftime.
Cory Remekun split a pair of free throws to close the Billikens' gap to nine with just over three minutes left, but that was the team's final basket of the half. Oregon scored seven unanswered -- the last basket being a triple from Johnathan Loyd with less than five seconds to play -- to head into the break up 35-19.
The Ducks shot 60 percent (15-of-25) after 20 minutes of play, including 4- of-6 from behind the arc, while Saint Louis shot 29.2 percent (7-of-24) and an even worse 0-for-10 from 3-point range.
Saint Louis is 5-9 all-time in NCAA Tournament play ... The 2011 Richmond squad was the last 12 seed to earn a spot in the Sweet 16 ... Saint Louis had held its last five opponents to under 60 points ... The Billikens fell in the round of 32 last year to Michigan State, 65-61 .... Oregon shot 8-of-11 from 3-point range ... Kazemi had 17 rebounds in Oregon's victory on Thursday.