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Oregon players huddle during a practice session for their NCAA college basketball tournament game Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Milwaukee. Oregon plays BYU on Thursday, March 20. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Way back on Dec. 21, BYU traveled to Oregon and almost picked up a big road win. The Cougars led by 10 early in the second half, and then faltered down of the stretch of a 100-96 overtime loss.
Fast forward to March, and a rematch that caught everyone by surprise.
The Ducks and Cougars meet again on Thursday in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Milwaukee. The West Regional matchup of at-large teams comes almost exactly three months after the first game, and no one seems too sure of what still applies from that high-scoring Saturday night.
"We've definitely grown since that game, so obviously they've grown and come a long way, too," Oregon forward Mike Moser said. "It will probably be a really different game."
No. 10 seed BYU (23-11) was in a precarious position on the tournament bubble, going into selection Sunday. It's the first game for the Cougars since they lost sophomore guard Kyle Collinsworth to a season-ending knee injury in the WCC tournament final against Gonzaga.
"It just means that everyone has to be more aggressive and step up to the challenge," junior guard Anson Winder said.
The 6-foot-6 Collinsworth averaged 14 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the Cougars, who finished second in the West Coast Conference this season. He had 15 points and eight assists in the December loss to the Ducks.
Collinsworth tore his right anterior cruciate ligament when he went down under the Gonzaga basket in the second half of the 75-64 loss to the Zags on March 11. He had surgery on Tuesday, putting experienced junior Matt Carlino back in the starting lineup.
The first practice without Collinsworth "was an emotional wreck with our guys," BYU coach Dave Rose said.
"But for the most part, I think hopefully physically and emotionally in our practice we have moved on from the loss of Kyle," he said.
Seventh-seeded Oregon (23-9) shook off a midseason slump to win eight in a row before its 82-63 loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament. The streak included victories over the Bruins and Arizona, which is the top seed in the West bracket.
"A month ago, this didn't look like it was going to happen," Ducks coach Dana Altman said.
Oregon began the season with 13 consecutive victories, and then came crashing down. It dropped eight of 10 in a challenging stretch that included four two-point losses and a four-point setback.
"Defending and rebounding, which we weren't doing consistently at that time, which I feel like is why we kind of took those skids and some of those losses," Moser said. "We started doing that on a consistent basis, we started really winning games."
Here are five things to watch for this NCAA tournament rematch:
THE LAST MEETING: BYU also had a seven-point lead with 3:52 to go in its first game against Oregon. It outrebounded Oregon 51-40 and shot 47.2 percent, compared to 40.7 percent for the Ducks.
But the Cougars committed 18 turnovers and went 22 for 36 at the line.
THE LAST MEETING II: Guards Tyler Haws of BYU and Jason Calliste of Oregon likely will see increased attention after they each had a big game in December.
The 6-5 Haws had 32 points on 13-of-21 shooting in the loss to the Ducks. He averages a team-high 23.4 points.
"He scores against everybody, and he's a great mid-range player," Altman said.
Calliste, a senior reserve, scored a career-high 31 points. He was 7 for 13 from the field and 13 for 13 at the line.
HOMECOMING: Oregon sophomore Elgin Cook is from Milwaukee, and he's been hounding his teammates for tickets all week.
"As soon as they called our name and said we're coming here, he jumped up and he went crazy," Moser said with a grin.
VEGAS BABY: Oregon guard Johnathan Loyd played with Winder at BishopGormanHigh School in Las Vegas. Loyd also has an older brother who played for BYU.
Loyd said he exchanged text messages with Winder after the draw was announced.
"We still talk a lot," Loyd said. "And once this is all over, we'll probably, you know, get back together over the years."
AT THE LINE: A few points at the free throw line can make a huge difference any time of the year, and each team has a couple impressive options when it comes to those tense moments.
The Ducks have four players who shoot 80 percent or better from the line, led by Joseph Young at 88 percent. Haws makes 88 percent of his foul shots, and teammate Skyler Halford is at 84.5 percent.
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