Senior Leadership

After losing their last four straight games, the Oregon Ducks came into tonight's game against the USC Trojans needing a win to stay in the hunt for an NIT berth. They got what they needed from the seniors and came out with a 75-70 win. <br><br> Oregon's Luke Jackson drives to the basket against Southern California's Rory O'Neil, left, and Desmon Farmer, right, during the second half at McArthur Court in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, March 4, 2004. Oregon won 75-70. (AP Photo/Thomas Boyd)

"Man it feels good to win," Oregon senior guard James Davis said.

That sentiment had to be echoed by every Oregon player, coach and fan. The last two weeks have been tough a team that has enjoyed so much success over the past few years.

After struggling in the first half against USC's zone, Oregon (13-11, 8-9) found their touch in the second half, mainly due to the play of seniors Davis, Luke Jackson and Andre Joseph. The three combined for 56 of Oregon's 75 points and controlled the game late.

Oregon Coach Ernie Kent said that the game plan was not for the seniors to take the shots but it just happened that way. "The seniors were the ones getting their shots and their shots were within the system," he said.

After trailing for the entire first half, a Davis three pointer that took the Boston Bounce with just 30 seconds to go in the frame brought the Ducks to within six at 39-33.

"We had momentum going in to the half," Jackson said.

The Ducks busted two more threes to start the second half and the game was tied. Mac Court was going nuts and Oregon was in control.

"That was the ballgame right there," Jackson said.

Oregon took the lead on an Ian Crosswhite free throw with 16:35 left and never looked back. USC (12-14, 7-10) often cut the lead to two points but couldn't ever tie it up or take the lead because of the shooting of the seniors.

The Trojans would make a run but then Jackson, Joseph or Davis would chime in with a big bucket and keep the momentum on Oregon's side, a place it was for the entire second half.

Davis finished the game with 19 points on 7-10 shooting. He was 5-8 from beyond the arc. With that effort from deep, he passed up Terik Brown on Oregon's career three pointers list with 226. Orlando Williams is first with 282 career bombs. Davis also had a spectacular block on USC's Desmon Farmer in the first half that brought the Oregon fans to their feet.

Joseph, the senior from Houston, Texas also had a big game on the scoreboard. In 31 minutes, Joseph had 17 points and four boards. Joseph came up big on the defensive end as well, playing Farmer very tough and forcing him to go 8-23 from the field.

"I just tried to limit his touches as much as possible," Joseph said. "You knew he was going to shoot it about 99 percent of the time he gets it."

Oregon's top dog, Luke Jackson, had the biggest game of them all though. His 20 points and 13 rebounds were key to Oregon's victory. Those stats moved Jackson up in a number of Oregon records categories.

First, he is the only player in Oregon history to score over 500 points in three seasons. With his rebounds tonight, Jackson moved into the top ten all time in rebounds. He is the only Duck to ever be in the career top ten in nine categories. Jackson's 20 points also pushed him past Greg Ballard in the all-time scoring list. He now stands alone in third with 1,833 career points. Anthony Taylor sits in second with 1,939 career tallies.

With three more assists and three more rebounds, Jackson will join former Arizona Wildcat and San Antonio Spur Sean Elliot as the only players in Pac-10 history with 1,800 career points, 700 career rebounds and 400 assists.

In most games this year, when Oregon hasn't had an inside game from Crosswhite and Mitch Platt, they have struggled or lost. Tonight the Ducks found a way around that. Crosswhite didn't attempt a field goal all game and Platt was 2-6 from the floor for four points. When they were struggling, not only did the guards pick it up, but Adam Zahn and senior Jay Anderson also came up big. Zahn played 10 solid minutes and had a season high four points. Anderson had five in 16 minutes on 2-2 shooting.

"For a guy who sat there all year long to be able to come in and give those minutes, my hat's off to him," Kent said of Zahn. "He did a tremendous job."

It worked in this game, but Oregon will probably need the bigs to come through on Saturday against UCLA in order for them to pull out a win. This game will be very important to the Ducks as a win will assure them a winning record and thus a possibility for a berth in the NIT.

In Oregon's last game against UCLA, point guard Aaron Brooks punched a basket support in frustration after a play, breaking his hand and keeping him out of the lineup for much of the season.

Kent joked that there may be special precautions used for the game on Saturday. "We're (going to) put an extra pad on the basket in case Aaron loses his mind," he said.

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