One Down, Two To Go

Before today, the Oregon Ducks knew that had to win three straight games and defend their Pac-10 Tournament Championship in order to make the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks took the first step today in yet another effort led by the seniors. Oregon beat the California Golden Bears 87-82 in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament. <br><br>(PHOTO LEFT) Luke Jackson #33 of the Oregon Ducks puts a shot up against Leon Powe #44 of the California Golden Bears. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

"The first one is always the biggest because there's a lot of pressure on," Oregon Assistant Coach Fred Litzenberger told OSN. "If you get the first one out of the way, you can relax a little bit and come to play for the rest of the tournament."

Today the Ducks found a way to get it done down the stretch. Early on in the game it was James Davis nailing three after three on his way to a team high nineteen points. Andre Joseph also was huge, hitting a number of big buckets on his was to nineteen. However, in crunch time, it was Jay Anderson, Aaron Brooks and Luke Jackson who powered the Ducks to the victory.

With Oregon trailing by a point with less than three minutes to go, Jackson calmly hit a pair of free throws for two of his nineteen points. The game had been back and forth until here, so why wouldn't it continue?

Oregon again had the ball with just less than two minutes left. The ball was in the hands of Brooks and the shot clock was running down. Ian Crosswhite came up to the top of the key to set a high screen for Brooks. The freshman from Seattle used the screen and coolly drilled a clutch three to give Oregon a four point lead.

Then came the obligatory parade to the free throw line for the Ducks, a place where they only missed one free throw in the final 16 minutes of the game. Brooks had two, Joseph had three and Crosswhite hit a pair to put the game on ice.

One of the most important factors in Oregon's performance down the stretch was the play of senior Jay Anderson. Anderson had the unenviable defensive assignment of guarding Cal's do everything senior Amit Tamir in crunch time. Tamir didn't score in the last 10:20 although he did have a game high 24 before that.

"He stopped (Tamir) from getting an open shot in the last four minutes," Litzenberger said of Anderson.

The Ducks have been a team that, so far this season, have been streaky in rebounding and sharing the basketball. When they do both they tend to win, and when only one, or neither of those happen, it gets much tougher.

Today, the Ducks hit the boards hard. Oregon out-rebounded California 32-29, with Jackson's 10 leading the way for the Ducks.

"We made a huge point of blocking out every single time," Litzenberger said.

Not only did the Ducks grab the rebounds but they also moved the ball very well which might play in to their 13-26 mark from three. Oregon had 20 assists on 27 total baskets. Jackson again led the team with six.

Litzenberger says that when you combine that with the tough defense Oregon played in the second half, it makes them tough to stop.

"We started last week with the two wins at home and we shared the basketball very well and defended," he told OSN. "Today in the second half, when we couldn't score, neither could Cal. Once we got the lead, they could not come back."

There's no rest for the Ducks as they will have to be back at the Staples Center tomorrow evening to face off with one of the best teams in the nation, the Stanford Cardinal. Stanford beat Washington State today to advance to the match-up against Oregon.

"Stanford is a great team and has great players but right now (our kids) believe we can win and believe we can play with anybody," Litzenberger said.

Andre Joseph thinks Oregon may have a slight advantage in the game.

"We have got to get into the tournament, so we've got to get this win," he told OSN. "I don't think they want it as much as we do."

The two teams will meet at 6:15 tomorrow. The game will again be televised by Fox Sports Net.

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