Player of the Game: Gardner leads the way

Jason Gardner has a bulldog tattooed on his right shoulder. It is a very fitting totem for the Wildcat junior. Gardner showed the tenacity of a bulldog in bringing the Cats back from a 17 point half-time deficit to lead the Cats to a 93-87 win over Oregon State.

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Gardner hit basket after basket on his way to matching his career high of 34 points. It was almost as if he willed the Cats to the win.

"He's a tremendous competitor," Lute Olson said of Gardner. "He took everyone on his shoulders."

Things looked bleak at half-time. Down 17 most fans and probably a few of the players doubted that a win was possible. Not Gardner. As he left the court he found his mother in the stands and signaled to her that they would win.

As the Cats clawed back, Gardner kept signaling to his mother. Television replays kept showing the proud parent cheering him on in the stands.

Gardner hit clutch buckets all night long. His three with 4:10 to play regained the lead for the Cats, 78-76.

The Beavers did not back down, but Gardner answered every advance. The Beavers cut the lead to one inside of three minutes, but Gardner answered with a three and put the Cats up 83-79. After another Oregon State bucket, Gardner came down on the ensuing possession and hit a little runner to put the Cats up 85-81 with 2:05 to play.

Down the stretch he showed why he is a clutch player. Gardner ht six-of-six free throws in the final 2:00 of the game. His final two came after Rick Anderson missed a free throw. Gardner beat two Beavers to the rebound and they could do nothing but foul.

Gardner did much more than score. The Indianapolis native played all 40 minutes of the game. He dished out six assists, had three steals, three rebounds and only two turnovers.

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