Creighton clips Oregon in 2 OT thriller to advance into Sweet 16

PITTSBURGH — Steven Ashworth and Ryan Kalkbrenner made 3-pointers in the second overtime as Creighton edged past its former coach, Oregon’s Dana Altman, to move into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament with an 86-73 win on Saturday night.

The 3s by the 6-foot-1 Ashworth and a rare one by the 7-1 Kalkbrenner helped the third-seeded Bluejays (25-9) score the first 15 points of the second OT to finally put away the 11th-seeded Ducks (24-12).

“Epic game,” said Creighton coach Greg McDermott, who took over for Altman in 2010. “Not sure I’ve been part of one quite like it in 35 years.”

Ryan Kalkbrenner (left) and Trey Alexander hug as Steve Ashworth dribbles out the clock in Creighton’s 86-73 double OT win over Oregon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Getty Images

Ashworth scored 21 points, Trey Alexander added 20 and Kalkbrenner 19 for Creighton, which will make its third Sweet 16 appearance in four years when it faces Tennessee on Friday in the Midwest Regional in Detroit.

It took balance, big shots, clutch free throws and poise for the Bluejays to overcome Oregon’s devastating 1-2 punch of Jermaine Couisnard and N’Faly Dante.

Couisnard, who had 40 points in the first round against South Carolina — his former school — had 32 and Dante added 28 points and 20 rebounds.

It was the second OT game of the night in PPG Paints Arena after North Carolina State ended Oakland’s Cinderella run with a 79-73 victory in the first game.

This one pitted the two winningest coaches in Creighton history — Altman and McDermott, who are close friends, occasional golfing buddies and the reason why the Bluejays are a mid-major power and March menace.

For two hours, their teams went toe-to-toe with neither giving an inch. It was exhilirating and exhausting.

Steve Ashworth, who scored a team-high 21 points, shoots a jumper during Creighton’s win. Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

There were 14 lead changes, nine ties and about as much drama as you can pack into a tournament game.

The Ducks, who rode the Couisnard-Dante tandem to a Pac-12 tourney title, looked cooked in the first overtime, trailing by three after two free throws by Ashworth put Creighton ahead 71-68.

But Couisnard, the silky senior guard from East Chicago, Indiana, came down and calmly drained a long 3-pointer in front of Oregon’s bench to tie it.

Creighton had a last chance in the first OT, but Alexander missed a short baseline jumper just before the horn, extending a Saturday night doubleheader in Pittsburgh into Sunday morning.

The second OT was all Creighton.

Trey Alexander, who scored 20 points, drives past Brennan Rigsby during Creighton’s victory. Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Ashworth opened it with his 3, and after Couisnard missed a layup, Kalkbrenner, the three-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, took a pass behind the line and drained just his 53rd 3-point attempt all season.

After another Couisnard miss, Creighton’s Jasen Green, who had nine rebounds, dunked a putback and the Bluejays were all but flying to the Sweet 16.

Ashworth then sealed it by banking in another 3-pointer as Creighton opened an 86-71 lead.

Oregon, which only attempted five free throws, had a chance to put it away in the final minute of regulation, but Dante missed Oregon’s first shot from the line with 26.4 seconds left and the Ducks up two.

Creighton’s Baylor Scheireman, who played all 50 minutes, then hit a contested 10-footer in the lane to tie it, and the teams went to OT when Couisnard missed an off-balance drive in the final second.

One of the game’s main subplots was Altman’s on-court reunion with Creighton, where he spent 16 seasons, turned around a program in disarray and helped put the school located in Omaha, Nebraska, on the hoops map.

His successor McDermott has kept it going, and now one of the nation’s most consistent winning teams, the Bluejays have outgrown any mid-major label.

In March, they’re as big as it gets.

And with two more wins, the Blue Jays will have the Final Four trip they just missed last season, when they lost by one point to San Diego State in a regional final.

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