MILWAUKEE — This was one sweet homecoming for Elgin Cook. The rest of the Oregon Ducks made themselves at home, too.
Backed by a vocal group of family and friends, Cook scored a career-high 23 points to power the seventh-seeded Ducks to an 87-68 victory over No. 10 seed BYU in the NCAA tournament on Thursday.
“Elgin Cook had a great game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “He finished everything down low.”
Joseph Young had 19 points for the Ducks (24-9), who had to stage a big comeback to beat the Cougars 100-96 in overtime in December. There was no comeback needed this time, with Oregon turning away every BYU charge in the second half.
Led by Cook, a Milwaukee native who starred at nearby Hamilton High School, the Ducks advanced to a third-round game against No. 2 seed Wisconsin on Saturday. The Badgers, playing just 80 miles from their Madison campus, beat American 75-35 in the day’s first game at the Bradley Center.
“It’s definitely special to me confidence-wise, but overall it means nothing,” Cook said. “We’re not satisfied, we haven’t won anything yet.”
Tyler Haws scored 19 points for BYU (23-12), which returned to the NCAA tournament after a one-year absence. Matt Carlino and Eric Mika had 15 points apiece.
Carlino got the start in place of sophomore guard Kyle Collinsworth, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the West Coast Conference tournament final against Gonzaga. The 6-foot-6 Collinsworth averaged 14 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists, and the Cougars clearly missed his playmaking abilities against the pressing Ducks.
“Kyle, he’s a guy that you can’t replace,” Haws said. “He brings so much to our team. But, even with him out, I thought we had chances to win this game. We cut it to three. I thought we had momentum. The guys stepped up.”
Carlino was 4 for 16 from the field, but he made a couple of big 3-pointers to help BYU close to 56-53 with 12:01 left. But Johnathan Loyd set up Cook for a three-point play on the other end, sparking an 11-2 run.
“I just wanted to stay aggressive, get some defensive stops and rebound the ball,” Cook said.
The Ducks then put away the Cougars with a 15-2 spurt that made it 86-61 with 3:29 to go. Cook started the surge with a layup and Jalil Abdul-Bassit finished it off with two free throws.
“We just had to tell everybody to relax. We knew they were going to make a run,” Oregon guard Jason Calliste said. “Just weather the storm, just get back to our principles, be aggressive.”
Oregon is making a second straight NCAA tournament appearance for only the third time in school history. It reached the Sweet 16 a year ago, when the 12th-seeded Ducks beat Oklahoma State and Saint Louis before losing to eventual champion Louisville in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
Cook, the son of former NBA All-Star Alvin Robertson, was a JUCO player a year ago, but he stepped up repeatedly in his first March Madness experience. The reserve forward was 8 for 9 from the field and 7 for 10 at the free-throw line.
“He was fired up right at the selection show. He saw it was in Milwaukee,” Loyd said. “He’s been hyped up ever since then. I expected him to play inspired basketball. He has a homecoming, playing in front of friends and family. He was inspired.”
Wearing bright fluorescent yellow uniforms with green and yellow socks and shoes, Oregon used its superior athleticism to pick apart BYU’s defense for much of the first half. Young made two free throws, Mike Moser and Dominic Artis each had a slick layup, and Calliste made two more free throws to help the Ducks open a 39-24 lead with 3:07 left.
But Calliste’s free throws were the last points of the half for Oregon, which had two turnovers and missed a couple of jumpers as BYU went on a 7-0 run to make it an eight-point deficit at halftime.
BYU shot 28 percent (9 for 32) from the field in the first half and 33 percent for the game. The Cougars were outscored 36-14 in the paint.
Calliste added 14 points as Oregon’s reserves outscored their counterparts 49-10. The Ducks controlled the boards 37-32 after they were outrebounded by the Cougars in their December victory.
“Our guys were just overwhelmed at times as far as being able to control their penetration,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “They just keep coming at you. I think that’s what hurt us.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap