A matchup with Ethan Happ set up an ideal March Madness showcase for Kenny Wooten.
Happ, a first-team All-American for the Wisconsin Badgers, might be the most skilled low-post player in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 17.5 points per game this season without making a single three-pointer. Wooten, the Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year for the Oregon Ducks, averages 2.6 blocks per game.
In the first round of the NCAA Tourney, Wooten more than held his own against the Senior All-American on both ends of the floor to power No. 12-seed Oregon’s 72-54 upset of No. 5-seed Wisconsin.
His ability was perfectly summed up in a sequence with a little less than 13 minutes left. On one end, the sophomore emphatically swatted away a Happ hook shot and talked trash to the star forward. On the other end, the star post player got his head up to the rim and flushed home an alley-oop to take a nine-point lead.
The dunk gave Wooten, who averages just 6.2 points per game, nine points on 4-of-4 shooting. He finished with nine points, six rebounds and four blocks and did all this despite a rough collision in the first half, which has him battling a shoulder injury in the second.
With Wooten dominating on defense and the Ducks managing just enough on offense, Oregon pulled off the upset in San Jose, advancing to play the No. 13-seed UC Irvine Anteaters, who pulled off an upset of their own Friday with a 70-64 win against the No. 4-seed Kansas State Wildcats at the SAP Center.
We’re now guaranteed at least one double-digit seed in the Sweet 16 and the Ducks have been a logical pick all along. Oregon was the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 before an early-season injury to star center Bol Bol derailed their season. The Ducks got on track with a new starting lineup featuring four players 6-foot-9 or taller, which let them grind out a defensive struggle against the Badgers and hand the Big Ten Conference its first loss of March Madness.