Andre The Giant And Co. Head To New York

So, Luke Jackson only gets 14 points in the game and two in the first half. Chris Thomas shoots 25 times. Oregon flies across the country to play their second game in less than 48 hours. The Ducks don't get a field goal for nearly nine minutes down the stretch in the second half. Sounds like a Notre Dame win doesn't it? <br><br>(PHOTO LEFT) Oregon coach Ernie Kent talks to James Davis in Oregon's game with Notre Dame in the third round of the NIT on Thursday. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

Not quite, the Ducks dug deep and found a way to win in a tough environment in South Bend. Oregon won their third round NIT game 65-61 behind the leadership of Andre Joseph who led the squad with 16 points and inspired defense.

After a huge win at home against George Mason on Tuesday night, the Ducks were forced to fly to South Bend and play shortly after their flight landed.

"They wanted our travel as tough as possible to get back here," Oregon Coach Ernie Kent told OSN about the NIT's scheduling decision. He said the Ducks wanted the game to be pushed back a day but the NIT refused.

Possibly because of the travel, Oregon's play early on was very sloppy. The Ducks had four turnovers only three minutes into the game. Notre Dame actually led the Ducks 9-2 after a Torrian Jones lay-up which forced a Kent timeout.

It was Joseph who quickly got Oregon going again after the timeout. He went right down and drilled a three pointer which gave him, and the Ducks, five points in the game. Then he stole a pass while Notre Dame was trying to bring the ball up the court and drilled a short jumper. Oregon was within two at 9-7. A pair of Ian Crosswhite free throws and a Mitch Platt inside bucket gave Oregon an 11-9 lead and confidence.

Joseph carried the Ducks with ten points in the first half along with locking up Chris Thomas, Notre Dame's star player. Thomas had only two points in the frame.

"Andre was just fantastic on him," Kent told OSN.

Joseph also came up big late in the game when the Ducks needed another stop. After Luke Jackson missed a shot at Oregon's end with just over 15 seconds left and the Ducks up two, Jones had the ball for Notre Dame looking to bring it up the floor. He threw a pass in the direction of Thomas but Joseph stepped in the way, knocked the ball off of Thomas and out of bounds. Oregon got the ball back with 13 seconds left.

Jackson was fouled and hit the first of his two free throws. Oregon was up three but it was still a one possession game. The second free throw looked good but it caromed off the rim only to be tipped by Crosswhite and then grabbed by Jay Anderson who flipped it to Jackson.

"I tried to get it to a free throw shooter but he wasn't much of a free throw shooter tonight," Anderson told OSN, laughing. Jackson was a very abnormal 4-8 from the line.

The senior from Creswell was quickly fouled again and only made one of his two free throws but it was enough to seal the win for the Ducks.

It wasn't just Joseph that pulled out the win. Oregon's team defense clamped down on the Irish big time. The Ducks stayed in man to man most of the night except for a brief stint in their press and it worked. Notre Dame shot just under 39 percent from the floor and only 30 percent from long range, a place where they normally hit 36 percent of their shots. The entire team chased Irish players all over the floor and kept anyone from getting going.

"Guys besides Luke stepped up and we got it done," Anderson told OSN.

Oregon especially got it done on Chris Thomas. Notre Dame has relied on him for most of their offense all year long and today he couldn't hit his hat. He went 7-25 from the field and although he did have 18 points he struggled to get there.

The Ducks will fly back to Eugene and then fly out again on Sunday heading for New York City and the NIT Final Four. The Ducks have been there twice before but have never made it to the championship game, finishing third in 1975 and fourth in 1999. Coach Kent is very excited about how the team is playing heading into the match-up against Michigan in the Big Apple.

"We are peaking and our legs are fresh," he told OSN.

Michigan last played in the NIT in 2000 and won the event in 1997. The last game between the two schools in hoops went the way of the Wolverines, 93-85 in the 1971-72 season, Dick Harter's first as coach at Oregon. According to the NIT website, the game will be played at 6:00 PST on Tuesday and will be broadcast on ESPN2. The winner of that one will play Rutgers or the winner of Marquette and Iowa State on Thursday in the championship game.

"I know (the NIT) wanted Notre Dame back there but they're going to have to deal with the Ducks," Kent told OSN. "We're going to New York City."

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