SAN JOSE, Calif. — The stakes and site will be different when Russell Turner takes a fourth shot at Oregon on Sunday.
The UC Irvine coach lost at Matthew Knight Arena during three straight seasons from 2014-16, including a 69-67 overtime loss four years ago when the Anteaters let an 11-point lead get away and Dwayne Benjamin hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left in regulation.
“We haven’t beaten them, but there were some close ones,” Turner recalled. “We also haven’t played them anywhere other than Matthew Knight, so we look forward to the opportunity to compete against them here.”
The 12th-seeded Ducks (24-12) and 13th-seeded Anteaters (31-5) each pulled an upset on Friday to meet up in the South Region second round at 6:40 p.m. at SAP Center. The winner moves on to the Sweet 16 in Louisville, Ky., on Thursday.
None of the current Ducks have played against UC Irvine, but they flipped on the film soon after defeating Wisconsin 72-54 in the first round.
“That is a great shooting team,” Oregon junior guard Payton Pritchard said. “They spread the floor so we need to stop their 3-point shooters. They play a lot of people to stay fresh, so we know it will be a tough game.”
Oregon made a surprising late-season surge with nine straight wins while UC Irvine counts the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 consecutive games over more than two months. The Anteaters defeated fourth-seeded Kansas State, 70-64, in the first round while making 9-of-23 3-pointers.
“We know they are good and watching them last night reinforced that,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said.
Junior guards Max Hazzard and Evan Leonard lead UCI with 12.7 and 11.3 points per game, respectively, but nine players are averaging at least 16 minutes per game. The Anteaters start 6-foot-10 Jonathan Galloway and 6-8 Tommy Rutherford with 6-9 Collin Welp and Elston Jones off the bench as they outrebound opponents by an average of seven per game.
“(Turner) likes big guys that try to beat you up on defense and rebounding,” Altman said. “They run real good sets so it is kind of what we have seen in the past. They always have pretty good shooters.”
UC Irvine averages 72.8 points per game while shooting 36.2 percent on 3-pointers, but Oregon ranks sixth in the nation by allowing opponents to shoot 29.1 percent on 3-pointers. Leonard is at 41.2 percent behind the arc followed by Hazzard at 39.7.
“We are going to have to play a special game to be effective,” Turner said. “But we did that on Friday against a team that’s actually a better-ranked defense than Oregon and that takes nothing away from Oregon. They have unusual length and look more like an NBA team than a typical college team.”
During five previous trips to the NCAA Tournament at Oregon, Altman has never lost to a team below a No. 2 seed. He is 8-1 against lower-seeded teams in the tournament with the Ducks.
“Every team is coming off a win for the second game so they feel good,” he said. “You only get one day to prepare and the last couple times against St. Joe's and Rhode Island, we were in trouble in both of those games. We were fortunate to win both of those games and we will have our hands full with Irvine.”
The Anteaters are coming off their first NCAA Tournament win in their second appearance in the tournament.
“We know we are going to have to play as good of a game if not the best we played all year to beat them,” senior guard Robert Cartwright said. “We believe we can and we’re going to get ready for that.”