ASU's Zone Stops Ducks

Coming into tonight's game, the Oregon Ducks knew they had to win to keep hope alive for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. It looked good early but after turnovers, missed three pointers and missed opportunities, the Ducks lost to the Arizona State Sun Devils 86-75. The loss may keep Oregon from getting an at-large bid into the big dance.

"Coach (Ernie) Kent warned us that Arizona State was hungry and they needed a win," Oregon forward Luke Jackson said. "They're playing just to go to the Pac-10 Tournament. We needed to come out with an urgency about us and we needed to match their intensity. And we played so inconsistent both on offense and defense."

ASU (10-14, 4-11) had Oregon on the ropes almost all night. Outside of the first few minutes of the game, the Sun Devils led almost the entire night. A Mitch Platt tip-dunk with 7:14 left culminated a 10-0 Ducks run and tied the game at 62 but ASU was only threatened briefly. The Sun Devils quickly woke up and took back control of the game.

It was ASU's zone that kept the Ducks from ever getting going. After Oregon's Ian Crosswhite left the game early with foul trouble, the Sun Devils went right to the zone. Oregon had trouble getting inside from there out.

"We talked about wanting to pound that ball inside (against the zone)," Oregon Coach Ernie Kent said. "When Ian got in foul trouble, it hurt us."

The zone forced Oregon to shoot 38 three pointers in the game, a school record. Oregon (12-9, 7-7) only made 14. James Davis, Oregon's sharpshooter was 6-15 from long range. His 15 attempts ties the school record. In comparison, ASU was 6-16 from outside.

Oregon became very trigger happy whenever a player would catch the ball somewhere beyond 20 feet. If there was anything that looked like an opening, whoever had the ball would shoot it.

"We had some great looks but we didn't knock them down at key times," Davis said. "We're too good of shooters to miss at key opportunities."

It's common thought that if a team plays zone, odds are they will not get as many rebounds because it is tougher to box out and get to the ball as it comes off the rim. That wasn't the case tonight. Arizona State out-rebounded the Ducks 40-27.

Part of the reason that Arizona State went to the zone, Coach Rob Evans explained, was to protect center Ike Diogu. When Oregon played at ASU earlier in the season, the Ducks got the All-American candidate in foul trouble and neutralized him. In this game Oregon never got that chance. Diogu had 23 points on 7-12 shooting.

Two nights after a career high of 42 points, Luke Jackson had a very sub-par night. The senior finished with 16 points on 6-13 shooting. He had ten assists but also had five turnovers. A number of those came at crunch time when the Ducks needed a basket.

"He tried to do a little too much against the zone down the stretch," Kent said.

Against a man defense, Jackson is normally able to get to the rim but not against the zone.

"We were going to make sure we knew where he was and where Davis was," ASU Coach Rob Evans said.

Jackson did get a little more help than he did against Arizona, but not much. Davis finished with 18 points and Andre Joseph had 13. Mitch Platt had another solid offensive game with 11 points on 5-8 shooting.

Although Platt was strong on offense, Oregon's big men did not have a good game overall. The quartet of Jay Anderson, Matt Short, Platt and Crosswhite combined for 21 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, four turnovers, one block and two steals. In comparison, ASU's Ike Diogu had 23 points, 12 rebounds, one assist, six turnovers, one block and no steals.

With the end of the season looming on the horizon, the Ducks feel that they are going to have to step up their game to find post-season play.

"The road is tough but it won't be impossible," Kent said. "We need to win out. If we don't do that, it comes down to the conference tournament."

Winning out will be very tough. Oregon has both California and Stanford on the road next weekend. The Ducks haven't won at Cal since the 1999-2000 season and at Stanford since the 1985-1986 season. To put that in perspective, the last time Oregon won at Stanford, Dionne Warwick's "That's What Friends Are For" was the top song on the pop charts.

"As a team, we've got to come together," Davis said. "We've got nothing to lose. We (have got to) play for ourselves and our pride. We need to play for our team, the Oregon Ducks, the name on the front of the jersey. If we do that we'll be fine."

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