Creighton edgees Oregon in 2OT to advance in NCAA Tournament

PITTSBURGH — Before the start of the second overtime, Greg McDermott looked at Dana Altman, and the two coaches and close friends shared a smile.

“We were in disbelief at what was happening before our eyes,” McDermott said.

They were not alone.

Stephen Ashworth and Ryan Kalkbrenner made 3-pointers in the second overtime as Creighton beat Altman, the former Bluejays coach, to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament with an 86-73 win over Oregon on Saturday night.

A 3 from the 6-foot-1 Ashworth and a rare one from the 7-1 Kalkbrenner, a defensive specialist, helped the third-seeded Bluejays (25-9) score the first 15 points of the second overtime to finally put the Bluejays away. The 11th-seeded Ducks (24-12) are wrapping up a game that has enough chaos to last most of March.

“Epic game,” said McDermott, who took over from Altman at Creighton in 2010 and earned his 325th career win, two goals short of Altman's all-time record. “I'm not sure I've ever been part of one quite like it in 35 years.”

Ashworth scored 21 points, Trey Alexander added 20, Kalkbrenner had 19 and Baylor Sherman had 18 for Creighton, which will make its third Sweet 16 appearance in four years when it faces No. 2 seed Tennessee on Friday in the Midwest Regional in Detroit.

“It feels great,” said Alexander, a returnee from the Creighton Elite Eight team a year ago. “We love this group of guys. We love rocking and rolling together. We love everything that comes with road trips and being able to spend another week with each other.”

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“We'll try to stay in the moment and continue to play at the level we feel we can play at. From there, we'll let the dominoes fall where they may.”

It took poise, big shots, free throws and poise for the Bluejays to overcome Oregon's devastating punch from Jermaine Quesnard and Navale Dante.

Quesnard — who had 40 points in the first round against South Carolina, his former school — scored 32 points on Saturday, and Dante dominated inside with 28 points and 20 rebounds.

It was the second overtime game of the night at PPG Paints Arena, after NC State ended a Cinderella run in Oakland with a 79-73 win in the first game.

Saturday's contest was between the winningest coaches in Creighton history – Altman and McDermott, close friends, occasional golfing buddies, and the reason why the Bluejays are a mid-major powerhouse and a bracket threat.

For two hours, their teams battled toe-to-toe with neither giving an inch. It was exhilarating and exhausting as they exchanged the lead 14 times. There were nine ties and about as much drama as you can pack into a championship match.

The Ducks, who rode a Quesnard-Dante tandem to a Pac-12 tournament title, looked poised in the first overtime after two free throws from Ashworth put Creighton ahead 71-68. But Quesnard, the senior guard from East Chicago, Ind., came down and calmly drilled a long 3-pointer in front of the Oregon bench to tie the score.

“They've been wagging their tails off all year,” said Altman, who lost three players to season-ending injuries. “We were riding them. So, it was special to watch those two guys.

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“We had our chances. We just made some terrible mistakes in organization. That's on me.”

Creighton had one last chance in the first overtime, but Alexander missed a short jumper at the baseline just before the horn, extending Saturday's double header on a cold night in Pittsburgh into Sunday morning.

The second overtime was all Creighton.

Ashworth opened it with a 3-pointer, and after Quesnard missed a layup, Kalkbrenner, a three-time AL East Defensive Player of the Year, took a pass behind the line and drained his 53rd 3-point attempt all season.

“Mac [McDermott] He told me to make 100 [3s] “After practice and 100 before that in the two practices we did before we came here,” Kalkbrenner said. “It helped prepare me. I got the confidence in myself to make that shot, and I know that was probably the No. 1 shot that Mack wanted on that possession.”

After another Quesnard miss, Creighton's Jasen Green, who had nine rebounds, scored on a rebound, and the Bluejays were on the verge of flying to the Sweet 16. Then Alexander sealed it by nailing a 3-pointer as Creighton opened up an 86-71 lead.

Oregon, which attempted just five free throws, had a chance to put the game away in the final minute of regulation, but Dante missed Oregon's first shot from the line with 26.4 seconds left and the Ducks took a two-point lead.

Sherman, who played all 50 minutes, then hit a contested 10-footer in the lane to tie it, and the team went to overtime when Quesnard missed an off-balance shot in the last second.

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One of the game's major subplots was Altman's on-court encounter with Creighton, where he spent 16 seasons, turned the program around in disarray and helped put the Omaha, Nebraska-based school on the hoops map.

McDermott has kept it going. Now one of the most consistent winning teams in the country, the Bluejays have surpassed any mediocrity title.

In March, they are almost as large.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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