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Golden Bears run out of gas

After ousting Oregon State and UCLA, California is eliminated by Oregon, 81-63.

March 10, 2007|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

The Oregon Ducks were quicker, deeper and better shooters. They had more energy than the California Golden Bears. And that was the formula for Oregon to advance to its second-ever Pacific Life Pac-10 tournament championship game.

The fourth-seeded and 16th-ranked Ducks beat the eighth-seeded Golden Bears, 81-63, in the first semifinal Friday night at Staples Center.

The Ducks (25-7) play third-seeded USC today at 3 p.m.

Oregon won its only conference tournament title four years ago, and that was the Ducks' only previous finals appearance.

There was an inevitable progression to the Ducks' dominance against the Golden Bears (16-17).

Before the conference's leading scorer, Aaron Brooks, made a basket, Oregon was leading, 22-12. Satisfied after watching freshman guard Tajuan Porter make a couple of three-point baskets and junior Malik Hairston attack the basket, Brooks set up behind the three-point line. His perfectly aimed 25-footer seemed almost casual, an indication that Brooks was in the game but not feeling pressed to be the star.

The Ducks led, 44-23, at halftime. Brooks, who made a layup with 1.8 seconds left, finished off that resounding offensive performance.

"That's as good a first half as we've ever played," Oregon Coach Ernie Kent said.

"We were really clicking together."

California, which had upset top-seeded UCLA on Thursday in overtime after beating Oregon State in the first round, still had enough energy to muster a second-half comeback that brought the Golden Bears to within 59-53 after a layup from freshman Ryan Anderson, who finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds..

"Cal made a gallant run at us," Kent said.

"I think their legs gave out a little bit or we might still be out there playing."

Porter, who finished with a game-high 24 points, pierced the Golden Bears' defense from the perimeter with his six three-point baskets, and Hairston, who had missed much of December and January because of injuries, had 22.

"We feel like we're playing really good basketball at the right time of the year," Kent said. "We're one of those teams that's peaking at the right time."

The Bears, who played short-handed most of the season with 7-foot sophomore Jordan Wilkes and 6-11 junior DeVon Hardin sidelined because of injuries, lost their backup center, Taylor Harrison, to a first-half knee injury.

"We can't really make excuses for that," Cal forward Theo Robertson said. "We put ourselves into a hole earlier in this game. We have to take responsibility for not getting some stops early."

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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