E.J. Singler hit the game-winning shot, a driving bank shot inside the paint, with a bit more than two seconds to play, as the Oregon Ducks defeated the visiting Creighton Bluejays in game three of the College Basketball Invitational championship series to claim the CBI title. The sophomore forward’s clutch bucket capped a frenetic and back-and-forth affair that saw the lead change hands 14 times and the score tied ten times.
The stage was set for Singler’s heroics when Creighton point guard Antoine Young was whistled for an over-and-back violation, as he attempted to dribble some time off the clock with the score tied at 69 and 17.2 seconds remaining in the game. The halfcourt line is barely visible, and Creighton Coach Greg McDermott remarked on that in post-game comments, but did not directly blame the lack of a distinguishable halfcourt line for Young’s violation.
“It’s tough, it’s really tough,” McDermott said. “This is a beautiful building and a great atmosphere—you just wish there was a visible halfcourt line. That’s a tough way to lose a game.”
The final minute epitomized just how competitive and frenzied the entire game was. The Bluejays were leading 67-65 when Joevan Catron sank a layup to equalize for the Ducks at the 58.9 mark of the second half. Burly sophomore center Gregory Echenique responded for Creighton, slipping inside and throwing down a dunk to make the score 69-67 with 45.2 seconds remaining. The home team tied the score on a layup by junior guard Garrett Sim some 11 seconds later. Creighton took possession of the rock with 33.3 ticks left and a chance to win the game and the CBI championship, only to turn the ball over on Young’s backcourt violation.
Given the topsy-turvy nature of the first half, the game, and championship series being decided in the final seconds, wasn’t at all surprising. Sparked by raucous student section at Matthew Knight Arena that was clearly ready to party, the Ducks got off to a hot-shooting start and took a 17-9 lead eight minutes into the game. The Bluejays battled back, oustcoring the home side 21-12 over the next ten minutes to take a 30-29 lead of their own. Both teams went cold in the final two minutes of the first half with the only scoring being a pair of free throws by Oregon’s Tyrone Nared that staked his team to a 31-30 halftime lead.
The Bluejays were the first team to find the range in the second stanza, scoring six points in the opening 45 seconds to take a 36-31 lead. The Ducks reclaimed the lead in short order, going an 8-2 run that put them up 39-38 at the 14:15 mark of the second half. It was nip-and-tuck the remainder of the way, with neither team being able to pull ahead by more than a basket or two.
How close were the final 14 minutes of the game? The biggest lead either team had in the remainder of the game came when Catron made a layup to put the Ducks ahead 60-56 at the 5:43 mark. Catron, who was named the tournament’s MVP, was the Ducks’ go-to player throughout the game (and championship series). The senior forward closed out his collegiate career in style, scoring a game-high 29 points and grabbing five rebounds. Singler added 15 points for the Ducks, who shot 48.2 percent (27-of-56) from the field.
The victory over first year Coach Dana Altman’s former team allowed Oregon to claim the third postseason title in program history. The Ducks finished the season with a 21-18 record. Its worth noting that NCAA Tournament Final Four participant Virginia Commonwealth won the 2010 CBI championship.
Antoine Young led Creighton in scoring with 21 points. Freshman forward Doug McDermott added 13 points while Echenique and Kenny Lawson Jr. chipped in 12 and 11 points, respectively. The Bluejays finished the season with a 23-16 record.