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Cold Shooting Ends Oregon's Season

In Nashville, Tennessee, the eight seed University of Oregon Ducks took on the ninth seeded University of Utah Runnin' Utes in today's first round game of the NCAA Tournament. The Runnin' Utes didn't run all that much in this contest; they really didn't have to.<BR><BR> <i> (PHOTO) The Oregon mascot shows the message "Support our troops" on the bottom of his foot during Oregon's 60-58 loss to Utah at the NCAA Midwest Regional basketball tournament in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)</I>

The Utes' slow down game allowed them to control the tempo that led to their 60-58 win over the Ducks. Oregon and Utah struggled to find their shooting touch throughout the entire ballgame. The poor shooting also played right into Utah's game plan. Utah plays a total slow down game and looks for a low scoring, defensive struggle. That is exactly what happened today.

Early on, Robert Johnson and the Oregon Ducks jumped out to a 9-0 lead. Johnson had Oregon's first six points and Oregon looked in control of the game. Utah could not make a shot early. It took them until just under 15:00 to go in the first half to make their first half. Nick Jacobsen's three pointer, which made the score 9-3, was Utah's first field goal in ten attempts.

Jacobsen's three-pointer sparked a 15-5 Utah run which gave the Utes the lead 15-14 with 11:00 to go in the first half. Oregon simply could not get anything going on the offensive end. The Ducks turned the ball over 13 times in the first half and trailed by as many as eight points. As the half came to a close however, two Luke Ridnour free throws brought the Ducks to within three points at 30-27.

In the second half, Oregon's missed shots allowed Utah to open up leads as large as nine points. Oregon seemed to be missing everything from three pointers to lay-ups. However, Utah's shooting was just as bad and somehow Oregon stayed right in the game. "We had plenty of open looks," Oregon Assistant Coach Fred Litzenburger told OSN. "Sometimes the ball goes in and sometimes it doesn't."

With 9:00 left, the Ducks went into a trapping defense. The trap brought the Ducks back within striking distance of the Utes. Oregon was all over the court making it tough for Utah to get a shot off. On the other end, the Ducks started getting Utah players in foul trouble. Utah had three players foul out between the 10:00 mark and 4:08 to go in the game. Cameron Koford, Tim Frost and Marc Jackson all fouled out, forcing Utah to play a lineup of mainly freshmen for the final four minutes.

With this lineup in the game, Utah was undersized compared to Oregon's front line. The Ducks tried to use this to their advantage, and with 2:13 left Ian Crosswhite was fouled in the act of shooting inside and went to the line. Oregon trailed 58-56 and looked to have stymied Utah with their defensive pressure. Crosswhite went to the line with a chance to tie the game. His first free throw, however, wound up well wide left and short; an air ball. His second free throw found its way in though, and Oregon was now down only one.

On Oregon's next possession, Crosswhite again was fouled and made one of two free throws. His one free throw on this trip to the line tied the game with 46.6 to go. The normally solid free throw shooting Crosswhite was 2-5 from the charity stripe in the final 4:08.

Litzenberger told OSN: "(Utah) got into big foul trouble in the second half and we really couldn't take advantage of that. We missed some shots and we missed some free throws."

Utah had one more chance to take the lead. The Utes moved the ball around the horn in their deliberate offense. Oregon was playing great defense and not allowing Utah any easy shot. Finally, with 14.4 seconds left in the game and two on the shot clock, Nick Jacobsen fired a three-pointer that was long but a whistle had blown. Luke Ridnour had fouled Jacobsen in the process of shooting a three-pointer; he would get three free throws. Jacobsen made two of them and Utah led 60-58.

Ridnour, although having a cold shooting day, had the ball in his hands coming down the floor. Ian Crosswhite set a high screen but as Ridnour drove to the hoop, he was cut off by three Utah defenders. Ridnour found James Davis open for a three-pointer to win the game that was no good. The high bouncing ball found its way to Ridnour's hands on the rebound. Ridnour tipped it to Davis with three seconds to go. Davis fired again for three but once again the shot was long. When time expired the Utah players rushed to mid-court to celebrate their win.

"You've got to give Utah credit," Litzenberger said. "They did all the things they needed to do to win a ballgame."

It was not a pretty game on the whole today. From the field Utah was 18-61 while Oregon was only 19-55. The Ducks also turned the ball over 17 times in the game and Utah had 14. Only three of Oregon's turnovers were in the second half.

Utah was led by Nick Jacobsen's 23 points in 38 minutes. Marc Jackson added 13 opints in 24 minutes before fouling out.

On this cold shooting day for the Ducks, Luke Jackson was the only Oregon player to shoot better than 50 percent from the field and score in double figures. Jackson was 6-11 and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. Luke Ridnour finished with 13 points and five assists. Ian Crosswhite added 11 points and eight rebounds in a strong 19-minute outing.

Next up for the Runnin' Utes will be the number one seed Kentucky Wildcats on Sunday. Coach Tubby Smith and the Wildcats are one of the favorites to win the tournament. They beat IUPUI 95-64 in action earlier today.

The Ducks will be looking forward to next season after the pain from this loss wears off. With a great recruiting class, including Seattle's Aaron Brooks, coming in, along with Adam Zahn and Jordan Kent finishing their redshirt years, the Ducks will have another strong squad that could make a run at another NCAA Tournament berth.

"We had a great year and that's what we need to focus on," Litzenberger said.

Stats from www.goducks.com.

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