Ducks even up CBI finals series

EUGENE — Oregon coach Dana Altman knows probably better than anyone else what to expect out of Creighton.

Altman's Ducks beat the Bluejays 71-58 on Wednesday night to force a deciding game in the best-of-three College Basketball Invitational championship.

Altman figures he has Creighton's number because, well, he coached the Bluejays for 16 seasons.

"I know those guys in the locker room over there," he said. "They'll be ready to play."

The Ducks (20-18) host the Bluejays (23-15) in the finale on Friday night. Creighton won the opening game of the championship series 84-76 on Monday night at the Qwest Center in Omaha.

"They'll come back just like we came back tonight," Altman said.

Joevan Catron led Oregon's rebound with 18 points, while Malcolm Armstead added 14 points and former South Medford standout E.J. Singler had 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting. The Ducks, who led by 21 points, confounded the Bluejays by switching to a man-to-man defense.

"Our main foundation for this game was defense," guard Johnathan Loyd said, "because they scored too often and too easily in the first game."

Gregory Echenique and Jahenns Manigat each had 10 points for the Bluejays.

Altman is Creighton's winningest coach, with 327 victories and seven NCAA tournament appearances in 16 years. He left the 6,000-student Jesuit school last April for a $1.7 million-a-year offer from Oregon. The move came as a big surprise to his players and Creighton fans.

Altman said he had dreaded the trip back to the Qwest Center, but he got a warm reception from the CBI single-game record crowd of 12,381. He was replaced at Creighton by Greg McDermott, previously head coach at Iowa State.

Wednesday night's game was a chance for Altman to show off his new digs, the $227 million Matthew Knight Arena, which opened earlier this year. The Matt, as it is known, replaced beloved but outdated McArthur Court, the Ducks' home since 1927.

Oregon capitalized Wednesday night on its advantage at the Matt, with its distinctive woodsy-looking floor.

The Ducks took a 15-8 lead after Jay-R Strowbridge's fast-break layup midway through the first half. But the Bluejays closed the gap to 15-14 on Josh Jones' 3-pointer.

The Ducks pulled back out in front after Singler's 3-pointer, Armstead's jumper and Catron's layup made it 25-16 with less than five minutes before the break.

Armstead's layup with less than a minute left gave the Ducks a 35-21 lead going into the break.

Creighton Freshman Doug McDermott, the coach's son and the team's leading scorer with an average of 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, got into foul trouble early and sat for a good part of the first half. McDermott finished with six points.

Oregon extended the lead to 44-23 after Garrett Sim's 3-poiner. Sim, who did not score in the first half, had seven points less than 3 minutes into the second and finished with nine.

Sim's layup with 12:58 left made it 54-33.

The Ducks got sloppy down the stretch and Creighton was able to narrow the margin to 58-46 after Kenny Lawson's jumper and four straight free throws from McDermott and Darryl Ashford.

The threat was short-lived, however, and Catron's 3-pointer with 5:33 left gave the Ducks a 66-48 lead.

Oregon scored 35 points off Creighton turnovers.

"Too many of those turnovers led to easy baskets at the other end and got their crowd into the game. That was our No. 1 goal, the first thing we talked about before the game, was not allowing those pick-six turnovers that turn into a huge play at the other end, and we weren't able to execute that part of our game plan," Greg McDermott said.

The Ducks picked up their 20th victory of the season, making Altman the third first-year UO head coach with 20 wins in his first season, and the first since John Warren went 30-15 in 1944-45.

It was Oregon's 12th season with 20 or more wins in the history of the program.

The CBI tournament is in its fourth year. The Oregon State Beavers won the 2009 title, defeating UTEP in three games.

Last year's CBI champion was Virginia Commonwealth, which plays Butler in an NCAA tournament semifinal Saturday.

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