KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Oregon guard Tyler Dorsey had his back turned, the single cord of a net dangling from the back of his Final Four hat, when the hands belonging to Basketball Hall of Famer Reggie Miller gripped him by the shoulders.
“Do you have any left? Do you have any left?” Miller excitedly screeched.
Dorsey, who had hit six of his 10 shots from beyond the 3-point arc, shook his head, smiled and answered with a fulfilling, “No.”
During Oregon’s shootaround -- before its 74-60 win over Kansas on Saturday night vaulted the Ducks into the Final Four -- Miller held court with several players, including Dorsey, Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell, who had approached Miller just to talk.
“He said you have to lay all out every game,” Brooks said. “Every game is your last in this. He gave a lot of us advice, and we went out there and took it.”
The Ducks’ star trio shined brightest, even as Kansas’ Frank Mason III -- the favorite to capture the Wooden Award as national player of the year -- did all he could to prompt one more Jayhawks rally.
“Jordan Bell was unbelievable on the defensive end tonight; he got a couple of blocks early, and I thought it really put a thought in their mind,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “Tyler hit some big 3s, especially the two right before the half and the one when it got to 66-60. And Dillon Brooks just gives us a lot of passion. He played extremely hard. He gave us some big buckets.”
Miller’s words were actually just a reminder. The Ducks learned their lesson last season.
Altman said during the 2016 NCAA tournament, after Oregon beat Duke in the Sweet 16, “We didn’t have the edge” against Oklahoma -- and the Ducks were eliminated in the Elite Eight.
The Ducks had plenty of edge against the Jayhawks.
“I feel like they were the more aggressive team,” said Kansas forward Landen Lucas, who had considered going to Oregon, where his father, Richard, played. “They did the small things that helped their team win, and they had some players that made some great plays.”
The great plays started with Bell’s defense.
Some thought the loss of Oregon’s leading shot-blocker, Chris Boucher, would be too much to overcome, but Bell has maintained the Ducks' status of having the top shot-blocking percentage in the nation.
“I think I controlled the game on the defensive end,” Bell said. “The main goal was to try to stop their quick offense.”
The 6-foot-9 junior forward set a school record with eight blocked shots. Altman said the first 10 minutes of the game, in particular, were big, as Bell established his presence in the paint.
“That was an amazing defensive effort,” Dorsey said. “To be honest, I think he’s the best player in the country when it comes to blocking shots, and he changed so many shots.”
While Bell altered shots, Dorsey was taking and making the biggest ones en route to a game-high 27 points.
In the first half, the Ducks led by just five points when Dorsey made back-to-back 3-pointers -- one that bounced high in the air before coming straight down into the net and another that banked in at the buzzer.
In the second half, with Kansas mounting a furious comeback that chipped an 18-point deficit down to six, Dorsey hit a dagger 3 as the shot clock was about to expire. No single shot was more effective in silencing the partisan Kansas crowd of 18,643.
Altman said the focus with which Oregon played actually started after it survived Michigan 69-68 in the Sweet 16.
“I was real happy when I came in after the Michigan win and we weren’t celebrating,” Altman said. “We were focusing on we have one more game. I think maybe the experience of a year ago helped us.”
Plagued by foul trouble against Oklahoma in the Elite Eight game last year, Brooks scored only seven points before fouling out. Dorsey shot just 3-of-10 in that contest.
Brooks, who had 17 points against Kansas on Saturday, said the memory of watching Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield walk around with the regional trophy remained seared in his mind. Brooks can finally let that go now.
“I seen Buddy Hield hold this [trophy] last year, I was crushed, I was crying my eyes out,” Brooks said. “... We move on the Final Four and try to do what we wanted to do last year and win a championship. Two more games.”