SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- When your NCAA tournament life is on the brink of extinction, a proven remedy is for your stars to take over. Luckily for Oregon, guard Tyler Dorsey is becoming a big-time star at just the right time.
Dorsey was already one of the Ducks' best players, but the guard has reached a new gear in the postseason. Never has he shined brighter than in the do-or-die moments against upstart Rhode Island on Sunday night at Golden 1 Center.
Dorsey helped rally the No. 3 seed Ducks from a 10-point second-half deficit and then gave them the 75-72 win with his 3-pointer with 40 seconds left in the game. He finished with 27 points and missed only one shot, making it five straight postseason games in which he's scored at least 20 points.
He and Pac-12 Player of the Year Dillon Brooks, who had 19 points and drew a key charge with 1:38 left, had to take over after Rhode Island landed some serious haymakers. The Rams, best-known for their defensive prowess, shot 51 percent from the field and appeared to get in Oregon's collective head early with their physicality. In the first half alone, Brooks was called for a taunting technical foul, Dylan Ennis was warned for chirping near Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley, and Jordan Bell talked smack while dribbling before his free throw attempt.
But falling behind by double digits in an elimination game has a way of sharpening one's focus. That's been the case for a couple weeks now for Dorsey. Oregon coach Dana Altman said Saturday that he didn't run enough plays earlier in the season for his talented sophomore. Dorsey, he said, has overcome that lately by focusing on other parts of his game, such as rebounding, which in turn has helped him become more confident on offense.
The Ducks needed someone to step up when valuable big man Chris Boucher tore his ACL in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals. They miss Boucher, as their defense struggled to contain Rhode Island, and his absence could catch up with them in a big way in the next round. But at least they have two bona fide stars in the backcourt. That's the reason they'll be playing again next weekend.