When the 2K Empire bracket was released, it was widely expected that No. 13 Oregon and No. 15 Syracuse were going to face-off in the championship game on November 16.
Come Friday, both of the nationally-ranked teams will play each other, but not in the championship. Instead, the Ducks and Orangemen will tipoff in the consolation game at 1:30 p.m. PT on ESPN2 after being upset on Thursday evening.
“We got to jump back right away,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said after the loss to Iowa. “We got to go back, regroup a little bit and really get ready to go."
Oregon was outplayed in all facets in its 77-69 loss to Iowa. Ehab Amin led the Ducks with 25 points (5-of-8 from deep) while Victor Bailey Jr. added 12 points off the bench.
"A disappointing effort… our ball movement was bad,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We didn't penetrate and look to make shots for our teammates."
Freshman sensation Bol Bol didn’t fit the billing, finishing with 14 points, five rebounds and four blocks, often being pushed out of the way and showing no real interest in the game.
The Ducks got as close as four, 28-24, in the first half but an 11-0 Iowa run saw Oregon trailing 39-28 in at the half. Oregon tried to rally in the second half, but the Ducks missed too many point-blank shots, never really threatening the Hawkeyes en route to the loss.
It was an off-shooting night for the Ducks, who were held to 37.1-percent (23-of-62) from the field and 33-percent (6-of-18) from beyond the arc.
Likewise, Syracuse was beat 83-76 by UConn and first year head coach Dan Hurley. Jalen Carey led the Orangemen with 26 points and seven rebounds while Tyus Battle finished with 16 points and Elijah Hughes added 15.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was very complimentary of UConn postgame, but lamented about his team’s poor offensive performance.
"We didn't play very smart on offense and scored (76) points," Boeheim said. “We've just got to be better on offense. Movement wasn't good. We have to get into things. We haven't been good offensively for all the game that we've played and we're trying to work guys out of position. We're not in sync (on) offense at all."
The Orangemen were bothered by UConn’s pressure, turning the ball over and never getting into a solid offensive rhythm. Much like Oregon, Syracuse was able to get the game somewhat close but each time, the Huskies responded, never feeling threatened one the way to the win.
"We weren't in any way, shape or form good on the offensive end," Boeheim said. “We got crushed on the boards… we got crushed inside.”
For the game, Syracuse shot 39.4-percent (26-of-66) from the field and 27.3-percent (6-of-22) from the three-point line.
The Oregon and Syracuse matchup should be an exciting one as both squads are led by talented backcourts that make their respective teams run.
For Syracuse, Carey and Battle are not only the main offensive options, their spots at the top of Boeheim’s 2-3 zone are imperative for a fast-flowing game. If they can get deflections it allows the Orangemen to get into the open court and run.
That could bode well for Oregon, because Amin and point guard Payton Pritchard are the catalysts for the Ducks. They’re at their best when Pritchard and Amin can push the pace and attack the rim, either finishing, getting to the free throw line or kicking out to the open player.
More importantly for the Ducks will be Pritchard and forward Paul White, the only real veteran players Oregon has. They have a lot to make up for as they combined for 12 points on 4-of-22 shooting against Iowa, a very poor performance for the leaders of the team.
"We just didn't compete tonight,” Altman said. “We weren't ready to play and that was my fault — very disappointed in myself, in the team."