June 18, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

Oregon, Oklahoma To Play at Honda Center For Final Four Berth

The Honda Center is an indoor arena and home of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. (Thinkstock)
The Honda Center is an indoor arena and home of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. (Thinkstock)

A berth in the Final Four will be on the line today at Honda Center when top-seeded Oregon faces second-seeded Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament’s West Regional final.

The Pac-12 regular-season and tournament champion Ducks (31-6) will be seeking their first Final Four berth since winning the initial tournament in 1939, which was an eight-team affair simply divided into the East and West regions.

This is the fifth time since then Oregon has reached the Elite Eight, and first since 2007.

The Sooners (28-7) were third in the 10-team Big 12 Conference and lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament. They have appeared in the Final Four four times, most recently in 2002.

Oklahoma is the nation’s second-best 3-point shooting team with a .426 shooting percentage. Senior guard Buddy Hield leads the nation in 3-point baskets per game, 3.9, and is second in scoring, averaging 25.1 points per game.

“The way he plays the game with a smile on his face and the energy, if a college basketball fan can’t get excited about that, what can you get excited about,” Ducks coach Dana Altman said.

“He loves the game, he loves his teammates. He loves his coach. He stayed an extra year and played when he didn’t have to.”

Hield, fellow guards Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard and forward Ryan Spangler has started every game (103)for the Sooners for the past three seasons.

“We haven’t seen a team like this with a core group that’s been there for all four years and we’ve never seen a player who shoots the ball like Buddy Hield,” said Ducks forward Dillon Brooks.

Oregon also has a national statistical leader, guard Casey Benson, who has the best assists to turnovers ratio, 4.8-to-1.

The Ducks roster includes three scholarship players from Los Angeles County high schools — freshman starting guard Tyler Dorsey (Maranatha), forward Jordan Bell (Long Beach Poly) and guard Kendall Small (Mayfair).

The rest of the roster consists of three players from Canada, one each from Arizona, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Israel, and three walk-ons from California. There are no players from Oregon.

Oklahoma has four players from Oklahoma, five from neighboring Texas, and one each from Illinois, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, the Bahamas and Canada.

Sooners coach Lon Kruger gave Altman his first Division I job, hiring him as an assistant at Kansas State in 1986 when he coached Moberly (Missouri) Junior College.

“I’m not sure he hired me, I think he wanted my team,” Altman said.

“I had the No. 1 ranked junior college team and Mitch Richmond, Charlie Bledsoe, Freddy McCoy and then we picked up Will Scott, a young man from a rival junior college and they went with me to Kansas State.”

Altman said he owes much of his career to Kruger “but I probably owe much more to Mitch” who led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 1988, went on to a 14-season career in the NBA and was selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Richmond’s son Phil is a walk-on guard for the Ducks.

This will be the first time Altman and Kruger have coached against each other.

“He’s been a great friend and mentor for 30 years,” Altman said. “We’ve never played each other for a reason. We didn’t want to play.”

Altman and Kruger plan on going to Scotland in July and early August for a golfing vacation, something Altman said the two have talked about quite regularly for the last 30 years.

“That could be uneasy for one of us,” Altman said.

 

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