Down To The Wire

In the words of the great announcer Keith Jackson, this one was a donnybrook. First the Alabama Crimson Tide would catch fire, and then the Oregon Ducks would do the same thing. It went back and forth this way until Alabama's Kennedy Wilson drilled a 15-foot fade away jumper with 4.5 seconds left. That shot sealed a victory for Bama in the first game of the Las Vegas Showdown, 87-86. <br><br> (PHOTO LEFT) Alabama's Demetrius Smith, right, rejects Oregon's Ian Crosswhite.(AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta)

Mike Gottfried's Alabama (6-2) squad came out putting up shots form all over in the first half. The Crimson Tide finished the half shooting an incredible 61 percent from the floor. However, the Ducks (4-2) were also on fire. Oregon shot 57 percent from the floor. The score at the half was in Alabama's favor, 54-46 but with the way Oregon battled back from 14 down in the half, they weren't out of it yet.

The teams' roles reversed at the start of the second half. Behind James Davis and Ian Crosswhite, the Ducks took the lead 70-69 with 8:52 to go. Crosswhite's 21 points led the Ducks.

Enter Andre Joseph. The senior guard finished with 17 points and was the next Duck to catch fire. Joseph carried the Ducks for the next six minutes scoring 10 of Oregon's last 16 points. A 15 foot jumper by Joseph gave the Ducks an 81-80 lead with 2:27 left.

Oregon, though, couldn't stop the Crimson Tide. Alabama forward Chuck Davis scored five points in under a minute for Bama and brought them within one point at 86-85 with 40 seconds to go.

On Oregon's next possession, guard James Davis found himself open in the coffin corner on the right side. Davis, who is Oregon's sharpshooter, missed the three that would have put Oregon up by four. The guard from Vancouver's Evergreen High School finished with 14 points and was just 4-11 from long range.

Bama came right back down the court. Down by one, Tide guard Earnest Shelton drove baseline on the right side, shadowed by Oregon's Luke Jackson. Shelton rose up for a shot but it was swatted away by Jackson with just over eight seconds left.

The Crimson Tide then had to inbound the ball from under their own hoop. Oregon, though, played great defense and forced Bama to call a timeout to avoid a five-second call. It was the second time tonight that Alabama had to call a timeout to avoid the dreaded five-second violation. They were already called for five seconds earlier in the game.

On their next inbound play, Alabama had a much better plan. Just give the ball to Kennedy Winston. The 6-6 forward from Mobile, Alabama finished with 27 points. With Jackson on him, Winston took a couple of steps towards the hoop, stopped and elevated, fading away from the right elbow. Winston hung in the air a moment and fired over Jackson's outstretched hand. The ball tickled the twine, giving the Crimson Tide an 87-86 lead with just over four seconds left. Oregon had one last chance.

After a couple of timeouts, the Ducks had Jay Anderson inbound the ball in the back court and lined Jackson, Joseph, Davis and guard Aaron Brooks up across the court at the free-throw line. Jackson, who finished with 15 points, broke open and received the pass. He took the ball down court under heavy pressure from Bama defenders. With just over a second left on the clock, Jackson rose up at the free-throw line with defenders draped all over him. His runner hit hard off the backboard, bounced off the rim and fell away from the hoop as the buzzer sounded. Alabama had won.

A win in this game would have helped Oregon come tournament time for a couple of reasons. First, it would have helped the RPI rating used to select teams to play in the Big Dance. Second, it would have given Oregon the confidence that they can win the close games against good teams. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it would have given Oregon one more non-conference win. Because the Ducks played one too many games last season, they were penalized by not getting to play as many as are allowed in this season. That means every win (and loss) count that much more.

Oregon's next and final chance to get a non-conference win is against the University of Portland at the Chiles Center in Portland on Monday. The Ducks have won 23 of their last 24 against the Pilots.

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