No. 7 Oregon (24-9) vs. No. 2 Wisconsin (27-7)
When: Saturday, 4:45 p.m. PDT
The Badgers own a very impressive array of wins, having defeated five regular season conference champs — Florida (SEC), Virginia (ACC), Michigan (Big Ten), Saint Louis (Atlantic 10) and Green Bay (Horizon) — in addition to playing their way through a tough Big Ten slate. This is the highest-scoring team in Coach Bo Ryan’s 13 seasons at Wisconsin, averaging 73.2 points per game, and the points are coming from a wide variety of sources. One of those is 6-7 freshman Nigel Hayes, right, who was named the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year.
Record 23-9 26-7
Points scored 81.8 73.5
Points allowed 74.0 64.6
Field goal % .468 .458
Def FG % .442 .432
3PFG % .392 .373
3PFG/Gm 7.8 7.8
Def 3PFG/Gm 5.7 4.9
Free throw % .766 .744
Reb Margin 1.3 1.1
TO Diff. 2.1 1.9
Avg Steals 7.9 5.0
Avg Blocks 3.4 3.5
MILWAUKEE — Elgin Cook came home and made sure everyone knew about it.
The former Milwaukee City Conference player of the year and a redshirt sophomore for the Oregon Ducks set up shop right in the soft spot of BYU’s zone defense and announced his presence to anyone with an eye on the BMO Harris Bradley Center court.
In fact, he did all he could to make sure he would be around another couple of days.
Cook scored a college-high 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the seventh-seeded Ducks to an 87-68 victory over 10th-seeded BYU in a second-round NCAA Tournament game Thursday afternoon.
The reward for beating the Cougars is a date with the Wisconsin Badgers for the right to advance to the Sweet 16.
“Yeah, I knew he was fired up right from the selection show,” said Ducks guard Joseph Young, who scored 19. “He found out it was in Milwaukee and he’s been hyped ever since then. I expected play inspired basketball. I was expecting this, for sure.”
Oregon (24-9) was too quick for the Cougars around the basket, and Cook time and again set up on the baseline and beat defenders to the glass for rebounds, putbacks and short drives. The former Milwaukee Hamilton athlete hasn’t been a consistent scorer for a deep Oregon team and Wednesday admitted that he still needs to learn to play every minute as if it’s his last.
With starting forward Mike Moser saddled with foul trouble throughout the game, Cook made his presence felt where it was most needed. Inside that BYU zone were a couple of soft spots that coach Dana Altman wanted to exploit with his athletic roster.
Cook kept doing it over and over again.
“I just went inside the zone along the baseline, and our guards did the hard work,” Cook said. “I was the recipient. They just got in the middle and I had to finish. I think they made a point to get me the ball. I just wanted to lay the ball up and finish. It was definitely a good feeling. I’m glad we won.”
Cook, who played high school ball in Milwaukee for 3 ½ years before transferring to a prep school in Houston and is the son of former Milwaukee Bucks guard Alvin Robertson, came into the game averaging 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds. He didn’t limit his contribution to just scoring inside. He pulled down eight rebounds and had a block.
He was part of a bench effort that contributed 49 points from nine players.
And the play he made with 16 minutes 26 seconds left put a charge into the entire Ducks roster and the section of fans sitting behind them.
After giving the Ducks a 45-35 lead with a putback, Cook tracked a shot by guard Johnathan Lloyd that bounced off the front of the rim, grabbed it with both hands and slammed it down with authority. As he ran down the court, he gestured to the fans behind the bench as though that play was for them.
“That was just getting pumped, getting hyped,” Cook said with a smile. “Nothing more. Having fun out there.”
Oregon did have fun for the most part, but they had trouble putting the Cougars away until late in the game.
Ahead by 10 with more than 14 minutes left, the Ducks dropped their guard and stopped contesting BYU’s shots the way they had most of the game. Guard Matt Carlino sandwiched a pair of three-pointers around forward Eric Mika’s putback to cut the lead to 56-53 with 12:01 left.
The game was in danger of turning, but Cook took care of it with a short jumper and free throw on a three-point play that sent the Ducks on a five-point run and gave them some breathing room.
“Once they made the run and got it to three, I thought he made a big play there and got a three-point play,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “Then we got some stops and we were able to pull away.”
Seven points was as close as the Cougars would get as Oregon went on a 20-6 run to put the game away.
BYU (23-12), which was missing injured guard Kyle Collinsworth, looked as if it was going to get blown out early but made a game of it, cutting the Ducks’ lead to 41-34 early in the second half. But they could not hit enough shots and finished 20 of 61 from the field (32.8 percent) and 5 of 19 from beyond the three-point line (26.3 percent).
Guard Tyler Haws led the Cougars with 19 points, and guard Carlino and forward Eric Mika chipped in with 15 apiece, but they could not get the good looks they got in a previous meeting — a 100-96 overtime loss in Eugene in December. For a team that came in shooting 46.7 percent, it was a major letdown..
“I think (the last time) we were a lot more confident in the times when we got open shots,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “We shot a few rushed shots and forced shots tonight, but even the shots that were in rhythm and in our pace seemed to be a little bit maybe more contested. I think that we didn’t have quite the space to operate in.”
And as far as Cook, the Cougars had a scouting report on him. They just thought Moser would be the one they’d have to defend more often, not a backup forward who hasn’t scored that much.
“They’re a very talented team,” Rose said. “Really, the scouting report was pretty thorough, and I think that our guys were just overwhelmed at times as far as being able to control their penetration. They just keep coming at you, and I think that’s what really hurt us.”