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Frantic finish can't faze Ducks' focus.

Byline: Bob Clark The Register-Guard

LOS ANGELES - One must-win done for Oregon.

Now will it take another one?

That's what it could be tonight when the Ducks play UCLA in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tournament after both teams survived frantic finishes Thursday in the Staples Center, the Bruins beating top-ranked Arizona 96-89 in overtime before Oregon nipped Arizona State, 83-82, on Luke Ridnour's driving bank shot with 3.3 seconds left.

`This team isn't ready to go home,' Oregon's Robert Johnson said. `We packed for Saturday, that's what we came here for,' a reference to claiming the tournament title.

First things first, and that was winning the rubber match with the Sun Devils so that Oregon (21-9) could offer some further evidence of its worthiness for the NCAA Tournament.

`Hopefully all of you who said `Oregon needs one more win' can turn that around and all of you can say `Oregon got that win and deserves to be in,' ' UO coach Ernie Kent said. `If we can get all of those positive vibes going the right way, it'll help us get there.'

The problem becomes UCLA, in more ways than one. While the Ducks have strengthened their claim for an NCAA Tournament berth, suppose the Bruins sneak in and take the Pac-10's automatic berth by beating Oregon and then winning this tournament? Does the Pac-10 then get six berths?

`We understand how the system works, that it's going to be rare if they send five and impossible they're going to send six,' Oregon's Luke Jackson said. `It's important we come focused and ready to play UCLA.'

UCLA (10-18) is also far from the easy opponent that most eighth-place finishers are, as Arizona found out earlier Thursday.

`All year long, we knew (the Bruins) were a sleeping giant, just waiting to wake up,' Oregon's James Davis said. `They'll be all pumped up now.'

So should the Ducks. Ridnour's drive regained the lead for them after the Sun Devils had overcome a five-point deficit with 24 seconds left to lead 82-81, on a three-point shot to finish a 25-point game by Curtis Millage and a three-point play to complete Ike Diogu's 27-point game.

In between was an Oregon turnover on an inbounds attempt, when Ridnour's pass went off the hands of Jackson and back out of bounds, and this after the Ducks had used their final timeout to discuss a safe way to avoid a turnover under the ASU basket.

`It should never have come to that,' Kent said. `The key thing was we kept our composure.'

After Diogu's free throw put the Devils up by a point with 12.1 seconds remaining, the Ducks inbounded to Ridnour and he came up the court well under control.

`That's a long time,' Kent said of the dozen seconds, more than double the five seconds Oregon often sets the clock at when it practices such situations.

The call was for Oregon's `Four' play, with Jackson setting a screen about 25 feet straight out from the basket. That allowed Ridnour, who led the Ducks with 23 points, to lose Kyle Dodd, his defender, and then it was Ridnour driving down the right side of the key against ASU's 6-foot-10 Tommy Smith, who had been guarding Jackson. The other three Ducks readied themselves for a pass from Ridnour: Ian Crosswhite at the low post on the left side of the key, with Andre Joseph and Davis in opposite corners.

`I knew there was no way Arizona State was going to leave any of us open, because they know Rid would have found us if they did,' Davis said. `I was thinking `Rid will go straight to the basket and either get fouled or make his shot.' '

No foul, just the game-winner that Smith couldn't quite prevent even with his long reach when Ridnour put the ball high off the backboard.

`He made a great play,' Smith said. `Coach told us to switch, so it was me guarding him. It was really tough, because as a senior, I was putting it on myself to guard the last shot.'

The reason Oregon even had the opportunity to take the lead was because of the defensive job the Ducks had done on Smith and Shawn Redhage in the second half, holding the ASU forwards to seven points in those 20 minutes, or 15 fewer than they'd combined for in the second half when the Sun Devils rallied to beat Oregon a week ago in Tempe.

That assignment fell to Jackson and Joseph, who each played 20 minutes in the second half. Though Diogu had 13 of his 27 points in the second half - and 10 of his tournament-record 18 rebounds - the Ducks felt they could live with that. Robert Johnson had the primary duty on Diogu, with help from all corners.

`Robert played great defense on Diogu,' UO assistant coach Fred Litzenberger said. `They couldn't get the ball in to him for that one stretch.'

It was during that span that Oregon went on a 12-3 run to take a 69-61 lead with 6:32 left, though 20 seconds later Ridnour had to exit with his fourth foul, and by the time he returned, the Sun Devils were back within 69-67.

Jackson, who added 17 points for the Ducks, widened the margin with a three-pointer and it was that gap that Oregon almost nursed to the end.

`Oh, man, my heart was in my gut,' Davis said. `Arizona State made some clutch plays to come back, but it was all of our mistakes. We'd played so smart to that point.'

Then it came down to one point, the margin for the Ducks after Ridnour's drive.

PAC-10 MEN'S

TOURNAMENT

At Los Angeles

THURSDAY'S RESULTS

Game 1: UCLA 96, Arizona 89 (OT)

Game 2: Oregon 83, Arizona State 82

Game 3: USC 79, Stanford 74

Game 4: California 69, Oregon State 46

TODAY'S GAMES

Game 5: Oregon (21-9) vs. UCLA (10-18), 6:15 p.m.

Game 6: USC (12-16) vs. California (21-7), 8:45 p.m.

SATURDAY'S GAME

Game 7: Friday's winners, 3:15 p.m.

Notes: Luke Ridnour's 23 points give him 602 for the season, the fifth-highest total by a Duck. The UO record is 745 by Terrell Brandon in 1991, followed by Fred Jones (650 last year), Stan Love (639 in 1971) and Greg Ballard (629 in 1977). Ridnour also had six assists, lifting his UO record to 195. ... James Davis is now tied for fifth in season three-pointers with 80. ... The 18 rebounds for Ike Diogu were a record for an ASU freshman.

Key Stat: ASU shot .412 (14-of-34) in the second half while the Ducks were shooting .520 (13-of-25).

Next: The Ducks play UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament semifinals today at 6:15 p.m. The game will be televised by the Fox Sports Network.

OREGON (83)

Mp Fg Ft R F A To S Tp

Johnson ... 29 4-6 5-6 11 3 1 4 2 13

Jackson ... 35 7-17 2-2 8 1 4 4 1 17

Helquist ... 7 1-1 0-0 1 1 0 0 0 2

Davis ... 30 6-9 2-2 1 3 0 2 2 16

Ridnour ... 38 5-12 9-10 4 4 6 5 1 23

Short ... 7 1-1 0-0 2 3 0 1 0 2

Crosswhte ... 12 1-4 0-0 0 3 0 1 1 2

Lincoln ... 7 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Joseph ... 32 2-4 3-6 0 3 2 1 1 8

Anderson ... 3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Totals ... 200 27-55 21-26 27 21 13 18 8 83

Shooting: Field goals 49.1%, 3-point baskets - 8-18 (Ridnour 4-4, Davis 2-4, Joseph 1-3, Jackson 1-4, Lincoln 0-1, Crosswhite 0-2). Blocked shots - 2 (Johnson, Short).

ARIZONA STATE (82)

Mp Fg Ft R F A To S Tp

Smith ... 37 5-13 1-2 4 3 6 6 2 11

Diogu ... 40 11-19 5-8 18 3 0 5 1 27

Redhage ... 34 4-6 1-3 4 5 1 4 0 11

Dodd ... 25 2-6 1-2 2 2 3 1 0 6

Millage ... 34 9-18 6-6 4 3 1 2 3 25

Braxton ... 8 0-4 0-0 2 3 1 0 0 0

Crandall ... 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Knight ... 9 0-0 0-0 0 2 1 0 0 0

Hill ... 12 0-3 2-2 1 1 0 0 0 2

Totals ... 200 31-69 16-23 37 22 13 18 6 82

Shooting: Field goals 44.9%, 3-point baskets - 4-15 (Redhage 2-3, Dodd 1-2, Millage 1-6, Diogu 0-1, Hill 0-1, Braxton 0-2. Blocked shots - 1 (Diogu). Total rebounds include two team rebounds.

Oregon ... 40 43 - 83

Arizona State ... 41 41 - 82

Officials - Charlie Range, Stanley Reynolds, Chris Rastatter.

Attendance - 14,441.
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Title Annotation:Luke Ridnour's bank shot with 3.3 seconds left puts Oregon into the semifinals; Sports
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 14, 2003
Words:1447
Previous Article:State should get out of insurance biz.
Next Article:Naturally, it's Ridnour's game to win.


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