It was tough because that was right after our Utah loss. We had them down the stretch a little bit and gave it away. —Eric Mika
MILWAUKEE — While the NCAA selection committee, by policy, does everything it can to avoid rematches of nonconference regular-season games in early rounds of the NCAA tournament, sometimes, it’s unavoidable.
So it is that No. 10 seed BYU will take on No. 7 seed Oregon Thursday (approximately 1:10 p.m. MDT, truTV) in Milwaukee in the NCAA tournament's West Region.
The Cougars and Ducks met on Dec. 21 in Eugene, Ore., with Oregon claiming a dramatic 100-96 overtime victory.
BYU is relishing this rematch with the Ducks in the NCAA tournament — on a neutral court.
“We do like this matchup,” said guard Tyler Haws. “They play a fun, up-tempo style that we like. We had our chances to beat them up at their place. So we do like this challenge.”
The Cougars led almost the entire game at Oregon. In fact, BYU held an 83-76 advantage with 3:52 left in regulation, but it couldn’t hold on.
That disappointing setback at Oregon was part of a four-game losing streak for the Cougars.
“It was tough because that was right after our Utah loss,” remembered freshman Eric Mika, who fouled out against the Ducks. “We had them down the stretch a little bit and gave it away. We were all pretty bummed to finish off the preseason like that before we went into our first two conference games. None of us feel like we had very good games, so we’re ready to play them again.”
In that game in Eugene, Haws scored 32 points, while Oregon’s Jason Calliste poured in a career-high 31 points. Calliste was 13 of 13 from the free-throw line. Joseph Young chipped in 25 for the Ducks.
The Cougars made just 23 of 34 shots from the free-throw line, and missed crucial ones in the second half that cost them the victory.
“Obviously, we were disappointed,” Haws recalled. “We were up seven or eight with a few minutes left. We had our chances to win that game. They’re a great team, very talented. We’re excited to get another shot at them.”
“To know you had a team like that beat and you’re going to face them again on a neutral site, it’s an exciting feeling,” said guard Anson Winder.
While the two teams have met before and both play a similar, up-tempo style, things have changed since December.
BYU guard Kyle Collinsworth, who scored 15 points and dished out eight assists against the Ducks, is out for the season with a knee injury.
When the two teams played in December, Oregon was undefeated and ranked No. 13 in the country. But in early January, the Ducks dropped five consecutive games and fell out of the top 25 rankings.
But since mid-February, Oregon has been on a tear. Before falling to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament last week, the Ducks had won eight consecutive games, including an upset of Pac-12 champion Arizona (one of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament).
“They came to Utah right after Christmas and got an overtime win. Then they went on a skid and lost quite a few games in a row,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “There were quite a few comments during that skid from our staff, the fact that if we would have got the win, and their (RPI) numbers kept dropping the way that they did, it would be more of a disappointment. I tried to tell them, ‘There’s nothing more disappointing than losing in overtime.’ Then (the Ducks) caught fire and they’re playing really well right now. It should be a really good game.”
Oregon guard Johnathan Loyd said his team is eager to bounce back in the NCAA tournament after a humbling loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament.
“We’ve got a sour taste in our mouths,” Loyd said. “We didn’t feel like we showed people our best game. We didn’t give it our all, so we’re about to go out there and do the complete opposite.”
No. 10 BYU (23-11) vs. No. 7 Oregon (23-9)
Thursday, 1:10 p.m., MDT
Radio: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM