One of the biggest plays in Oregon basketball history began when guard Tyler Dorsey screwed up. He’ll tell you this himself.
“I wasn’t even looking at the shot clock. As a player, you’ve got to know the shot clock,” Dorsey said following his team’s 74-60 victory over Kansas on Saturday. “That was my bad, my mistake.”
The Sprint Center crowd was roaring. KU was down six points with 2:20 left, with defensive intensity that was about to force a shot-clock violation.
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Only, it didn’t. Oregon coach Dana Altman screamed from a few steps away on the bench. Dorsey finally looked up with 2 seconds left.
After subtly dragging his left foot, Dorsey awkwardly tossed up a two-handed heave off his right foot.
“They didn’t even shoot the ball. He just threw it,” KU coach Bill Self said. “Fortunately for them, it hit the rim.”
The ball caromed off the backboard and iron, and at that moment, KU had four players in the lane to Oregon’s zero.
“It was a great defensive possession for us,” KU guard Frank Mason said.
One that didn’t get completed, though.
This will be the moment talked about by fans until Late Night six months from now. This will be when it seemed like a bad-luck night turned into a full-on curse.
KU’s Josh Jackson went up with one hand to snag the rebound and deflected it. He never knew Mason was behind him.
“After I tipped the ball, I look, and Frank was right there to get it,” Jackson said. “If I had never touched the ball, we probably would have had the possession.”
Mason went up with two hands and couldn’t pull it in off the deflection.
“It just took momentum from right there,” Mason said, “and they extended the lead.”
Oregon’s Jordan Bell, who had already turned to get back in transition, ended up grabbing the rebound near the three-point line.
“I thought that was the play of the game,” KU guard Devonté Graham said.
KU wing Josh Jackson explains how Oregon big man Jordan Bell affected the Ducks' Elite 8 win over the Jayhawks on March 25, 2017.Terez Paylor The Kansas City Star
Remember, this KU team has been known for comebacks. This year’s Jayhawks rallied from 14 down to defeat West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse. The 2008 national championship team also was down nine with just more than 2 minutes left before staging its late comeback against Memphis. Down six with the ball and 2:17 left probably wouldn’t have seemed impossible considering recent history.
Instead, 26 seconds later, Dorsey hit a three-pointer over Lagerald Vick to essentially kill any hope KU had.
“It was just their night,” Jackson said. “Early on, I don’t think we played really good defense, but the course of the game went on, and they just made some tough shots that were well-guarded.
“They made some really, really lucky shots. I’d say that too.”
Forward Dillon Brooks had his own take on that crucial offensive rebound.
“When you play hard throughout the whole game you catch some breaks,” he said. “We caught a break there.”
KU center Landen Lucas, following his final college game, couldn’t help but think back to a speech from three years earlier. When former San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh talked to the KU men’s basketball team, he spoke about one of his life theories.
“He said, ‘Energy finds the ball,’” Lucas said, “and so maybe at times they had more energy, and the ball was coming to them.”