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Oregon Closes Well Against California

Ducks' late scoring kick and 13 three-pointers give them a 87-82 victory over the Golden Bears.

March 12, 2004|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

It was between a pair of Leon Powe free throws with three minutes to play when an anxious Ben Braun stalked in front of his bench and implored his team.

"Stay with it, guys," the California coach muttered after Powe's first free throw tied the Pacific 10 Conference tournament game with Oregon. His second attempt gave Cal the lead.

"Just stay with it."

Unfortunately for Braun and his No. 4-seeded Golden Bears, they couldn't stay with it or even hold on to it as the No. 5 Ducks flew by with an 87-82 first-round victory at Staples Center, thanks to a 12-6 closing scoring kick.

What is the reward for Oregon, which improved to 15-11 and is attempting to defend its Pac-10 tournament championship? A semifinal game today against top-seeded Stanford (27-1), ranked No. 2 nationally.

Cal's season, meanwhile, came to an end at a disappointing 13-15.

"I thought our team battled in the second half," Braun said, referring to the Bears' turning a seven-point deficit, 63-56, with 11:33 to play, into a 76-75 lead.

"We talked about a lot of adjustments in the second half and went out there and tried to fix them. I give Oregon credit -- they knocked down some big three-point shots."

Perhaps none bigger than the one freshman point guard Aaron Brooks hit.

With Oregon clinging to a one-point lead, and with the shot clock winding down, Brooks, who missed 10 games because of a broken right hand, hit a fall-away 23-footer from the right wing that gave the Ducks an 80-76 advantage with 1:54 to play.

With Cal forced to foul down the stretch, Oregon made seven of eight free throws to close things out.

"All year long we felt that we were a good basketball team," said Oregon Coach Ernie Kent. "And if we could get in a rhythm and get all our players [healthy], we would be able to play our style of basketball."

The run-and-gun Ducks did exactly that, even if they failed to take advantage of Cal's thinned front line.

Although the Bears were without forwards David Paris and Dominic McGuire, who were suspended by the team, the Ducks' success from outside made it a moot point.

Oregon made a tournament-record 13 three-pointers, shooting 50% from beyond the arc as guard James Davis came off the bench to make five three-pointers while guard Andre Joseph had four three-pointers and forward Luke Jackson added two.

All three seniors had 19 points to lead Oregon. Jackson had 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season.

Cal, meanwhile, was led by senior center Amit Tamir's 24 points on nine-of-16 shooting, including four three-pointers, while Powe, the league's freshman of the year, had 20 points and nine rebounds.

"I wanted to keep it from being my last game," Tamir said. "I just wanted to set an example for my teammates."

Cal started three freshmen this year. "Talent-wise, the sky is the limit for them," Tamir said.

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