Oregon Edges Boise State, CBI Final Awaits

After jumping out to a commanding 38-27 lead at halftime, Boise State pushed Oregon to the limit in the second half as the Ducks edged out the Broncos 79-71 to score a berth in a best-of-three CBI final against Oregon head coach Dana Altman's former team, Creighton.

An 8-for-16 three-point shooting performance and a 13-point first half effort by Oregon sophomore E.J. Singler, gave the Ducks a 38-27 lead going in to halftime. However, a motivated and hot shooting Boise State squad made matters a little more exciting than they maybe should have been in the second half, as Oregon held on to defeat the Broncos 79-71 before 6,157 at Matt Knight Arena on Wednesday night.

Led by Robert Arnold's 24 points and the torrid shooting of the aptly named Tre Nichols -- who produced all 16 of his points in the second half -- Boise State cut Oregon's lead to as little as six points with 1:19 remaining in the game after trailing by as many as 20 at one point in the same half.

"They definitely fought to the end," Oregon senior forward Joevan Catron said of Boise State's relentless effort in the second half. "I think we lacked a little bit when we got that big lead. Coach (Altman) always says we get giddy when we get a lead and we gotta work on that still to this day."

Catron, who finished with his third consecutive double-double, tallying 24 points and 11 rebounds, did most of his damage in the second half where he scored 20 points and was an unstoppable force in the low block.

"I was just being aggressive," Catron remarked about his sterling second half performance. "I was just taking my time and bending my knees. That's a big part. You gotta play the game low and I think in the first half I was standing straight up and letting the ball catch me off guard instead of attacking."

The big Chicago native even punctuated the game with a one-handed fastbreak slam that brought the Matt Knight Arena faithful to their feet; surprised no doubt that Catron was capable of that kind of altitude.

"I've been saving it, man," Catron gleefully stated. "I just had an opportunity to do it. Usually there's three or four people around me and I don't have a chance to get up,

"I'm always in practice seeing the guys getting up and dunking and things like that and I'm always yelling, 'Flight School!'...I just had an opportunity and I took advantage of it and I got it down."

Assisting Catron along the way was Singler, who not only poured in 18 points, but helped spark the Ducks' 12-of-25 shooting effort from behind the arc with four three-pointers of his own.

"We know that Joe is gonna get double-teamed every game," Singler said. "I just try to find the open spots on the three-point line and Joe saw me a couple times out there and I just knocked down a couple of shots."

The stage is now set for Oregon head coach Dana Altman to make what will be a much anticipated return to Omaha and Creighton Univerisity; a place where Altman enjoyed the most successful stint of his head coaching career leading the Bluejays to seven NCAA tournament appearances in 16 seasons at the helm. With so much history between Creighton and its former coach, Altman admitted that returning to Omaha will be "awkward", if nothing else.

When asked what kind of reception he's expecting to receive upon his return, Altman said he was unsure.

"I haven't even thought about it," Altman admitted. "There's people that are disappointed I left and I'm sure that there's people that are glad that I left. 16 years is a long time, but it's about our guys, it's about our players...there will be a great crowd in Omaha and we just gotta go play."

The Ducks will travel to face Creighton on Monday, March 28 in what will be the first of a best-of-three series that will see the Ducks return to Matt Knight Arena for a second and potentially third game, if necessary.

Tip-off is set for 5:00 pm Pacific and live television coverage of the contest can be seen on HDNet.

Notes: Joevan Catron became just the sixth player in school history to amass over 1,000 career points and 700 career rebounds. Catron has 1,105 points and 709 rebounds in 130 career games. He joins Greg Ballard (1,828 / 1,114), Maarty Leunen (1,259 / 875), Stan Love (1,644 / 818), Charlie Franklin (1,090 / 747) and Charlie Warren (1,301 / 730)...Catron recorded his third consecutive double-double (fifth of the season, 13th of his career), having gone for a double-double in all three of this year's CBI postseason games. He's the first Oregon player to record three straight double-doubles since Maarty Leunen accomplished the feat back in January of the 2007-08 season...Catron tied the single-season record for free throws made with 169 (also held by Fred Jones)...E.J. Singler reached double figures in scoring for the 25th time in 2010-11...Malcolm Armstead has 145 steals in 67 games which ranks him No. 6 all-time in career steals at UO. Armstead is just two steals shy of matching No. 5 Anthony Taylor who had 147 steals in 115 games from 1984-88...Armstead, who has 80 steals in 35 games this season, already bested his own single-season school record which he set last season...Armstead also has 153 assists in 2010-11 which ranks eighth all-time in school history for a single season. Armstead is also tied for 10th all-time for career assists (291, 4.3 apg), tying Darius Wright who had 291 in 62 games from 1998-00...Garrett Sim has made at least one 3-pointer in 20 of UO's last 23 games...The Ducks have set a new school record for steals in a season, registering 297 (8.2 spg) in 36 games on the year. The previous mark for a single-season was held by the 2002-03 team which had 263 (7.9 spg) in 33 games...UO is 5-0 all-time against the Broncos...Oregon has a 15-1 record when shooting a better field goal percentage (just 4-16 on the year with a worse field goal percentage)...The Ducks are 12-3 overall when they grab more rebounds (6-13 when out-rebounded, 1-1 with same number of rebounds)...Oregon is 14-4 when they hold a first-half lead (4-13 when the fall behind at halftime, 1-0 when tied)...Next Wednesday's CBI game against Creighton will match the latest in the year Oregon has ever played a basketball game (matching March 30, 2004 – NIT Semifinals vs. Michigan at Madison Square Garden).

Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney

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