Oregon coach Dana Altman had barely stepped into the Ducks’ locker room on Saturday at the Sprint Center when two of his players rushed behind him and dumped a bucket of celebratory water on his head.
Altman, of course, just smiled while his green-clad Ducks jumped around him, woofing and hollering. This is what winning looks like, particularly a 74-60 win by the third-seeded Ducks over the top-seeded Jayhawks in the Elite Eight, a victory that sends the Ducks to the Final Four for the first time since 1939.
The fact it came against the Jayhawks — a rival during his years as an assistant coach at Kansas State in the late 1980s and as K-State’s head coach in the early ’90s — might have made it even sweeter, given Altman’s comments about the Jayhawks on Friday.
“If you spend seven years at K-State, you don’t like the Jayhawks, alright?” Altman had said with a laugh. “So, Chickenhawks, whatever you want to call them, alright?”
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Altman was joking, but the best humor is always based on a little truth, and it’s not like Altman has fond memories of the Jayhawks.
“The one chance we had to go the Final Four in ’88, they beat us after we had beaten them in the conference tournament,” he said.
But on Saturday, Altman got his revenge by directing a steady, veteran group of players that not only withstood Kansas’ athleticism, but also the easily combustible emotion of a pro-KU home crowd at Sprint Center.
“We had some lucky bounces,” Altman explained. “We had some balls that bounced right to us.”
The Ducks, however, did more than enough to win on merit. They outrebounded the Jayhawks by four, and junior big man Jordan Bell controlled the paint, swatting away shots and effecting others until the Jayhawks settled for the long balls they clanked at a 20 percent clip.
Add all that to the Ducks’ penchant for making big shots whenever the Jayhawks started to make a run — guard Tyler Dorsey made a backbreaking three late in the second half after KU had cut the Ducks’ lead to six — and it added up to the perfect blue to send the blue-and-red clad crowd home unhappy, and Altman to the Final Four for the first time in his 28-year head coaching career.
“Basically, it was a road game for us,” Altman said. “We had 600 (fans) and they had 18,000. ... The guys had to make those plays.”