Oregon will face a familiar foe when the No. 1-seeded Ducks host UC Irvine on Wednesday at Eugene, Ore.
The teams last met on Nov. 11, when UC Irvine prevailed 69-56 behind a stellar effort from guard DJ Davis. The junior scored 24 points and made six 3-pointers in the victory, while Oregon shot 32.7 percent from the field, including 4 of 21 (19.0 percent) from 3-point range.
UC Irvine (23-11) went on to share the Big West Conference regular-season championship with UC Santa Barbara, but the top-seeded Anteaters lost 83-80 to fourth-seeded Cal State Fullerton in the conference semifinals.
“My team, our guys are champions,” UC Irvine coach Russell Turner said. “There’s huge disappointment when the stakes are as high as they are in this league. We were prepared, we just weren’t fortunate enough to come out on top.”
The Anteaters now turn their attention toward Oregon (19-14), which finished fourth in the Pac-12 during the regular season. The Ducks saw their NCAA Tournament hopes end with a 75-56 loss to top-seeded UCLA in the conference semifinals.
Oregon’s struggles from 3-point range continued in the loss to UCLA, as the Ducks went 3 of 19 (15.8 percent) from beyond the arc.
Oregon senior guard Rivaldo Soares said his team will regroup and focus on making a run toward the NIT title.
“Any time I get to put this jersey on, it’s a blessing,” Soares said. “It’s not the way we wanted it to go, but we get to keep competing and there’s plenty of good teams that are going to be playing in the NIT, so we have to be ready to compete.”
Junior guard Dawson Baker averages a team-high 15.3 points for UC Irvine, which is seeking its first NIT victory since 1986 when it upended UCLA. Davis is scoring 15.2 points a game.
Oregon is making its second straight NIT appearance after losing in the second round to Texas A&M last year.
The Ducks boast a formidable frontline led by 6-foot-11 center N’Faly Dante, who earned First Team All-Pac-12 honors after averaging career highs in points (13.4), rebounds (8.4) and blocks (1.4). Dante is likely to play despite an ankle injury, while Jermaine Couisnard (shoulder) and Will Richardson (hip) are out.
Oregon needs one more victory to extend its record to a program-best 13 straight seasons with 20 or more wins.
The winner of Wednesday’s contest will advance to a second-round matchup against either No. 4 seed Florida or UCF.
–Field Level Media