Guards down the Ducks

After a sluggish first half, the Wildcats used a 12-0 run and the hot shooting of Jason Gardner and Salim Stoudamire to upend Oregon 88-80 in the final game of the regular season.<BR><A href="">GAME TALK</A><BR><A href="">NEWS & NOTES</A><BR><A href="">PHOTO GALLERY</A>

It was the Arizona guards who proved to be the difference. Gardner, playing his last game at McKale, exploded for 21 second-half points, including four three-pointers.

Gardner, who has been looking to pass more in the last few games, took it upon himself to do the scoring as the Wildcat front court struggled. Gardner was 6-for-9 in the second 20 minutes, including 4-for-6 from behind the arc.

It took Stoudamire 20 minutes to get over his funk from the last game. Like Gardner, he had a quiet first half, but exploded with 17 second-half points. Stoudamire also dished out four assists.

The point guard battle was not one sided. Oregon's Luke Ridnour scored 26, getting good looks no matter who the Wildcats put on him. Ridnour did a fantastic job of using screens and driving to the lane. He was also able to get his teammates involved, dishing out seven assists.

The Wildcats were great on defense. They limited the Ducks' hot shooting two-guards - Andre Joseph and James Davis teamed to shoot just 2-for-8 from behind the arc - and made Luke Jackson work for his points.

Jackson also had his hands full with the Wildcat defenders. The Wildcats kept fresh bodies on him and were especially effective at limiting his outside looks. Jackson managed just 12 points with most of them coming from the line, but he was a monster on the boards, grabbing a team-high 14 rebounds.

OU coach Ernie Kent brought in wave after wave of big men in an attempt to keep the Wildcat frontline off balance and tired. The Ducks go five deep in the post and all five played. The refs allowed them to get physical, especially in the first half. Channing Frye, Rick Anderson and Luke Walton struggled, combining to go just 10-for-31 from the field.

Frye had a decent second half, but hit just three for his first 10 shots, missing two dunks. He pulled down eight boards and played much better in the second half when the game was called much tighter inside.

Walton and Anderson had forgettable final home games, at least offensively. Walton scored just eight points, but had five boards and six assists. Anderson tied Frye with eight boards but scored only four points.

The Wildcat defense was impressive throughout and in the end that was a big factor. The Wildcats limited the Ducks to 43 percent shooting and forced 20 turnovers, 13 of which came on steals. The freshman duo of Hassan Adams and Andre Iguodala were especially effective. They had three assists apiece and combined for 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Arizona jumped out and scored the first four points, but it was the Ducks who went up-tempo and got out on a quick run. Able to run, the Ducks scored 10 of the next 12 points, including eight straight. Following a Jackson lay-in, Ridnour was fouled beyond the arc. He hit all three free throws before Davis' three gave the Ducks a 10-6 lead.

Things went back and forth until Olson sat Frye and Gardner. The Ducks took advantage of the substitution and after two quick buckets Oregon held a five-point lead, 19-14.

Gardner and Frye were quickly inserted back into the lineup and the Cats responded. The Cats wasted no time in tying the score. Fired up after a no-call moments before, Adams picked Jackson clean and raced toward the hoop where he was fouled on his lay-up attempt. The resulting free throws tied the game at 20.

Twice the Ducks built seven-point leads and twice the Cats clawed back. The second time the Cats scored eight in a row and a Gardner transition lay-in temporarily gave the Cats a 33-32 lead. Oregon avoided a Wildcat run before the half and went to the locker room with a three-point lead (38-35) after outscoring Arizona 6-2 over the final 3:40.

Great defense allowed the Cats to grab the lead coming out of the locker room. They forced the Ducks into three turnovers and a jump ball. Arizona scored the first five points to take the lead at 40-38 and continued to play strong on the defensive end. They didn't force any turnovers, but kept Oregon from getting good looks and Arizona built a 45-40 lead.

The lead wouldn't last, however. Oregon answered with three buckets and from there the squads went back and forth for the next five minutes.

The Cats made their move midway through the second half. Trailing 57-54, Arizona went on a 12-0 run. Adams sparked the spurt when he stole the ball and quickly gave it up to Gardner on the 2-on-1 break. Gardner raced down the left side and held the ball until the last possible moment before lobbing it to Adams who grabbed it with one hand and slammed it home. The dunk gave the Wildcats a 58-57 lead which they would not relinquish.

Frye and Stoudamire took over from there. Frye scored the next three Wildcat buckets and Stoudamire finished the run with a 19-footer.

The sophomore shooter was not done. After Oregon finally got on the board, Stoudamire proceeded to drop a pair of threes which pushed the Wildcat lead to a dozen.

Fittingly, Gardner provided the final dagger. With the crowd chanting his name, Gardner pulled up and drained a three-pointer and effectively ended the Ducks' chances.

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