The Ducks reach the Pac-12 Tournament final for third-straight year
LAS VEGAS – Dylan Ennis was prone on the hardwood, looking up to the ceiling of T-Mobile Arena. He was flexing. He was yelling. He knew the Ducks were bound for the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament championship game.
Just seconds earlier with the Ducks holding a two-point lead, he put his head down and went to the rim, making contact with Cal’s 7-footer Kingsley Okoroh. As Ennis fell to the floor, the ball dropped through the hoop and Ducks fans in attendance went wild. Once he buried the free throw Oregon had a five-point lead with 22 seconds left and no worries.
Ennis’ key play loomed large in the 73-65 win, which sets up the top-seeded Ducks with No. 2 seed Arizona in Saturday’s Pac-12 Tourney title game, Oregon’s third straight under coach Dana Altman.
“I love Oregon basketball,” Ennis said. “For us to be in the championship again shows that we’re one of the national powerhouses. I think a lot of people are going to start respecting us around the country.”
The contest got off to a sobering start when Cal star senior Jabari Bird landed on his head after toppling over Oregon’s Jordan Bell trying to block a shot. Bird had to leave the game just one minute after it started, and was eventually placed on a stretcher and transported to a hospital for CT scans, according to Pac-12 Networks’ Ashley Adamson.
In Bird’s absence, Cal guard Grant Mullins did a fine impression, going 7-of-8 from the field and 5-of-5 from beyond the arc en route to 23 points, but the Bears couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch.
“It's a big loss, especially on the offensive side of the ball, that level of production,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. “It's not an easy thing to do, but I thought our guys did a great job battling and competing.”
Likewise, Oregon's scoring leader, Dillon Brooks, spent a lot of time on the sidelines Friday. He only played 21 minutes after picking up his fourth foul two minutes into the second half, sitting out the next 13 minutes of the game.
With Brooks spending nearly half the game on the bench, Dorsey paced the Ducks offense with 23 points, going 9-of-13 from the floor and 5-of-6 from distance. Dorsey scored eight of Oregon’s first 12 points and never took his foot off the pedal.
“Everybody has to pick it up and pick up their role,” Dorsey said. “That's what we did tonight. We can't control how the refs are going to call it, and they called a couple on Dillon early and everybody had to pick up.”
Meanwhile, Brooks finished with 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting and grabbed six rebounds, taking responsibility for his performance in the locker room following the game.
“I had an off day,” Brooks said. “Shots weren’t falling and I was fouling a lot, cheap fouls. But you know, it’s a team game and my teammates picked me up.”
Oregon carried a 36-33 lead into the locker room at halftime before stretching the lead to as many as 13 with about 13 minutes left. But Cal crept back, eventually cutting the lead to just two when freshman Charlie Moore sank a couple of big free throws the possession before Ennis’ and-one. Moore played beyond his years once again, scoring 15 points, but the Bears are now relegated to waiting on Selection Sunday to see if their name is called.