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Oregon is trouble for Arizona

The Ducks get big games from guards Porter and Brooks to rout the Wildcats, 69-50.

March 09, 2007|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

From the unveiling of their new uniforms with tighter jerseys and longer shorts to Coach Lute Olson's denial that he has Parkinson's disease, basketball has almost seemed like an afterthought recently for Arizona.

The fifth-seeded Wildcats entered the Pacific Life Pac-10 tournament as a near-lock for their 23rd consecutive NCAA tournament berth even though they had their worst seeding in the conference tournament's 10 years.

And the Wildcats certainly played like their minds were elsewhere Thursday afternoon during a 69-50 loss to fourth-seeded Oregon in a quarterfinal at Staples Center.

Arizona (20-10) couldn't contain Ducks guards Tajuan Porter and Aaron Brooks, who combined for 37 points and made nine of 14 three-point shots.

Oregon (24-7) advanced to play eighth-seeded California at 6 tonight in a semifinal.

"There's no question in terms of who played the hardest and smartest and most competitively -- definitely Oregon," said Olson, who labeled rumors that he had Parkinson's as "totally false" during a recent news conference. "It starts out front with Brooks, but Porter knocked down shots.

"They're a problem to defend because they have so much room out there to work with."

Oregon Coach Ernie Kent credited his team with what he called the "best defensive performance in 10 years against Arizona.

"A big part of that was keeping them out of transition and off the offensive glass."

With Porter (21 points) and Brooks (16) combining for five three-pointers, the Ducks took a 34-23 halftime lead. Arizona could get no closer than nine points in the second half even with a 15-point, 14-rebound performance by freshman forward Jordan Hill.

After scoring 10 points in the first half, Chase Budinger, the Pac-10 freshman of the year, went scoreless in 12 second-half minutes and drew rare criticism from Olson.

"If you look at Chase's rebounding total in 28 minutes, it's one," Olson said. "Chase needs to be a factor in all phases of the game."

Olson hopes his players, who have T-shirts saying the season starts in March, follow the form of the 1997 Wildcats. They finished fifth in the conference but went on to win the national title.

"You can do whatever you do during the year, but it's not like football," Olson said.

"If you get an opportunity now, you have that opportunity."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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