SAN JOSE, Calif. — Payton Pritchard had 18 points and seven assists to pace Oregon’s 73-54 win over UC Irvine in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but he chose another player of the game for the Ducks.
“Ehab (Amin) was the MVP tonight,” Pritchard said. “His defensive energy got us stops and going 4-for-4 on 3-pointers. You can’t get bigger than that.”
Amin came through with a couple of Oregon’s most memorable plays during a stretch when the Ducks took the lead and eventually pulled away from the Anteaters on Sunday night at SAP Center.
After UC Irvine took a 37-35 lead while Oregon missed its first 11 shots of the second half, Amin hit a 3-pointer that put the Ducks ahead for good at 38-37. He drew a charge on the next play and Louis King followed with a 3-pointer. Amin forced Collin Welp into a 10-second violation that led to two free throws from King as Oregon went up 43-37.
“Defensively, when we get steals or deflections or rebounds, that gets me and my teammates going on the offensive end,” Amin said. “That is what I bring to this team, energy and getting 50-50 balls or diving for loose balls. Getting steals and deflections and being vocal to get my team going.”
Amin’s go-ahead 3-pointer started a 15-3 run that pushed Oregon ahead 50-40.
“Fortunately, Ehab came in and gave us a big lift,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “He hit that shot, got a steal, and then we got energy back. We needed something there because the guys were starting to tighten up a bit. We needed something good to happen and fortunately a senior came in and did a great job.”
Amin made all four of his 3-pointers for 12 points to go with six rebounds, three steals and two assists in 25 minutes off the bench.
“He is dedicated to this team and always has been,” UO senior Paul White said. “For him to go from the starting lineup to the role he plays now is huge. He is a huge contributor for this team. He gave us the spark we needed and inspired us.”
Amin, who made a game-tying 3-pointer late in Oregon’s 79-75 overtime win over Arizona State in last week’s Pac-12 Conference Tournament semifinals, had not made a 3-pointer in his past two games. He made two in the first half and then hit the go-ahead shot before banking in his final attempt.
“I didn’t want to force anything, but coach told me to shoot open shots but still try to be aggressive,” Amin said. “Today, the first one went in and I started feeling good.”