Oregon's E.J. Singler, left, battles Duquesne's Andre Marhold for a rebound during the first half Monday. - AP

Ducks make their own final four

EUGENE — It wasn't an NCAA tournament game, to be sure, but the nail-biting tension of March Madness was present inside Matthew Knight Arena Monday night in the final moments of Oregon's 77-75 victory against Duquesne.

The Dukes pulled to within a point of Oregon's lead with 9.4 seconds left and then had a chance to force overtime when Sean Johnson stepped to the free-throw line with 1.5 seconds remaining.

But Johnson couldn't seal the comeback, making just one of three, and the Ducks held on to advance to the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational tournament and a semifinal game at home — their third of the tournament — against Boise State on Wednesday.

"We made it this far," said Oregon's Garrett Sim, who scored a season-high 20 points. "We definitely want to try and win it."

Joevan Catron added 14 points and 11 rebounds for Oregon (18-17), Medford's E.J. Singler scored 11 and Malcolm Armstead added 10 points for the Ducks (18-17).

"It's certainly great just to keep playing," said Catron, a fifth-year senior forward. "A lot of teams are going back home and not playing anymore, but we're one of the teams that are still playing."

Bill Clark led the Dukes (19-13) with 19 points, Johnson added 13 and Damian Saunders had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Duquesne, which defeated Montana on Wednesday and then bused straight to Eugene, shot 57 percent in the second half and made 13 of 28 3-pointers.

It was nearly enough to erase a nine-point halftime deficit.

The Ducks were up six, 75-69, with under two minutes to play when Clark made a 3-pointer to trim the Dukes' deficit to 75-72. He then cut the Ducks' lead to 75-74 with 9.4 seconds left on a layup following a 3-point miss by Sim at the other end.

Clark intentionally fouled Singler with 6.7 remaining and Singler made both free throws to push the Ducks' lead to 77-74.

After a timeout, Johnson got the ball on the left wing and was fouled by Armstead on a last-chance 3-point attempt with 1.5 seconds left, sending the sophomore guard to the line. But Johnson, a 71.4 percent free-throw shooter this season, missed his first attempt from the line, made his second and then intentionally missed his third but Catron grabbed the rebound to end the game.

"It was a little nerve-wracking, but we came together and (Joevan) said, 'They're going to give us one these, so let's box out,'" Sim said.

Oregon shot just 29 percent from the field in the second half and 39 percent for the game. But they outrebounded the Dukes 41-31 and for the second straight game, held a huge advantage from the free-throw line.

The Ducks made 20 of 26 free throws on Monday. Duquesne was just 4-for-8. In two CBI games, Oregon is a combined 43-for-52 from the line compared to 9-for-19 for its opponents.

Part of that comes from Oregon's zone defense that doesn't allow much penetration, and part of it is the Ducks' desire on offense to pound the ball inside, Oregon coach Dana Altman said.

"One of the advantages of playing zone for 40 minutes should be that we shouldn't foul as much as our opponent," said Altman, who is in his first season at Oregon after a 16-year career at Creighton, which is also in the CBI semifinals.

Sim made all five of his free throws and Singler was 6-for-7.

"Just being aggressive, our whole team," Catron said.

The Ducks, trailing 13-6 early in the first half, used a 28-9 run to take a 34-22 lead with 5:24 to go before halftime. Sim scored all 12 of his points in the first half during that run, including a 3-pointer at the 9:09 mark that gave the Ducks their first advantage of the game, 20-19, and Oregon took a 43-34 lead into halftime.

"We needed something to get us going there," Altman said. "We were really struggling to start the ballgame, so I thought Garrett getting us jump-started was really important."

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