Quack Attack is Back

Elgin Cook (USA Today Sports)

After holding one of the slowest possession teams in the field to 35 points, second-seed Wisconsin must figure out a way to defend one of the quickest, as seventh-seed Oregon loves to score and push the tempo.

MILWAUKEE - Get past the blinding highlighter-yellow uniforms and the speedy pace in which the Ducks like to fly up and down the court, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Oregon can share a similar sense of satisfaction and toughness on the basketball court.

Teams have to show those kinds of characteristics to endure long losing streaks and still make it to the third round of the NCAA tournament, like the two programs that will face off in the Bradley Center Saturday night.

But while Wisconsin felt secure about its NCAA tournament bid after losing five of six following its 16-0 start, Oregon coach Dana Altman knew his Ducks were going to be tested after the program's 13-0 start quickly evaporated with eight losses in 10 games in a 35-day stretch.

Oregon won its first 13 games, but lost five straight and then suffered a two-point losses to UCLA on Jan.30, at Arizona on Feb.6 and at Arizona State Feb.8. All three of those teams made the tournament.

"It was a tough stretch," said Altman. "A lot of teams would have folded, lot of teams could have gave into it. I was really proud the way the guys fought it and stayed with it … It was a long month, and the guys could have folded, but they didn't."

Much like the Badgers winning eight straight and 9 of 11 to clinch their highest seed in seven years, the Ducks (24-9) rattled off eight straight, which included wins over the three mentioned two-point losses, by having a renewed focus to their defense. Sound familiar?

"We just feel we take care of defending and rebounding, which we weren't doing consistently at that time, which I feel like is why we kind took those skids and some of those losses," said senior forward Mike Moser, as Oregon held Arizona to a season-low 57 points on its end-of-season win streak. "We started doing that on a consistent basis, we started really winning games."

A year after advancing to the Sweet 16 as a No.12 seed, losing by eight to eventual national champion Louisville, Oregon is looking to make back-to-back Sweet 16s for the first time in program history on the heels of its offense, averaging 81.8 points per game (good for 11th nationally).

The Ducks are seventh in the field in possessions per game averaging 73.2 possessions per game, which has allowed them to score over 90 points nine times.

For comparison, American ranked 347th in the nation with only 62.4 possessions per game, a three-way tie with Cal Poly and Syracuse of fewest in the field.

"They're one of the best offensive teams we've faced this season," said assistant coach Gary Close. "They're lethal with all the ways they can beat you."

And like Wisconsin, there is balance within the offense. With Moser limited because of fouls in Oregon's 87-68 victory over BYU, the Ducks got a game-high 23 points and eight rebounds off the bench from Milwaukee-native Elgin Cook, taking some heat off the country's 268th scoring defense.

The former Milwaukee Hamilton High School star and 2010 City Conference player of the year had scored 15 points over the last four games, but went 8-for-9 from the floor and 7-for-10 from the free throw line. Despite going 2-for-13 from 3-point range, the Ducks shot 50 percent from the floor and made 31 free throws.

"I knew he was fired up right from the selection show," said senior guard Johnathan Loyd, who averages 7.2 points and has played in a program-record 143 games. "He found out it was in Milwaukee. He's been hyped ever since then. I expected him to play, play inspired basketball. Every time you have a homecoming, you play in front of your friends and family, you get inspired. I was expecting this for sure."

The son of former Milwaukee Bucks guard/forward Alvin Robertson, Cook left Hamilton High School in the middle of the 2010-11 season and attended a prep school in Houston to get more exposure. He played last season at Northwest Florida State junior college before coming to Oregon.

He entered the game averaging 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game before his Thursday outburst, showing state basketball fans that maybe Marquette or Wisconsin should have given him a closer look.

"Elgin Cook had a great game and really finished everything down low, and once they made the run and got it to three, I thought he made a big play there and got a three-point play," said Altman. "Then we got some stops and we were able to pull away."

Even without dissecting the film, Altman knew Wisconsin was a tough matchup for his program, especially matching up with the size in the interior. In a season of overcoming challenges, second-seed Wisconsin is the next one on the list.

"Our team has been bouncing back all year and I think they'll be ready to go on Saturday," said Altman. "We're going to have to play really well. They're a good team, and when you play good teams, you got to bring your ‘A' game and we're going to have to play really, really good basketball."

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