SACRAMENTO — During the madness of March, the difference between winning and losing often comes down to a single play. The ball bounces a certain way, a whistle is blown at a certain time, and the fates of all involved can change in an instant.
When Rhode Island’s Stanford Robinson followed up a missed shot with an offensive rebound and a bucket to give the No. 11 Rams a four-point lead over No. 3 Oregon with 2:20 remaining Sunday, an upset appeared within reach.
“That defense we faced is as good as any defense we faced this year,” Oregon Coach Dana Altman said later, underscoring the difficulty of the situation.
But then Rhode Island couldn’t grab a defensive rebound — first after Oregon senior Dylan Ennis missed the second of two free throws with 2:01 remaining, then again after junior Dillon Brooks missed a three-pointer that could have tied the game.
That allowed the ball to wind up in the hands of Tyler Dorsey, who calmly buried a three-pointer to tie the game with 1:44 remaining. Then, with 40 seconds to go, the sophomore guard capitalized on a switch and rose up from well outside the arc for a three-pointer that proved to be the game-winner, capping a sensational night with 27 points on 9-for-10 shooting (including 4 for 5 from three-point range) to lift Oregon to a heart-stopping 75-72 victory and a second straight Sweet 16 berth.
“His hands never came up,” Dorsey said of his game-winning shot, “and I let it go.”
Rhode Island got one final chance to tie the game, but with no timeouts, junior guard E.C. Matthews dribbled to the wing and let fly with a hopeful bomb that missed everything. After the ball bounced harmlessly into the corner as the clock ran out, the Ducks celebrated a victory that came by the slimmest of margins.