The Closing Of An Age

Tuesday night was the end of an era of Oregon basketball when four incredible seniors played their final game in the green and yellow. They went out on a 78-53 loss to the Michigan Wolverines in the NIT semifinals, but they will be remembered for so much more than that.<br><br> (PHOTO LEFT) Michigan's Daniel Horton, left, and Oregon's Aaron Brooks battle for a rebound during the first half of the NIT semifinals Tuesday, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The three seniors who have been at Oregon for their entire career: Luke Jackson, James Davis and Jay Anderson, along with Andre Joseph who transferred from Lee Junior College for the 2002-2003 season, have made their mark on Duck athletics. There was the magical Elite Eight run and Pac-10 Title in 2001 when Freddie Jones and Luke Ridnour were on the roster. Last season saw the Ducks surprise everyone and win the Pac-10 Tournament Championship, and this year, it was the NIT Final Four.

"They'll be a group that we'll talk about forever," Oregon Coach Ernie Kent told OSN.

Tonight's game, however, was not one that will be talked about forever. In fact, most Duck fans may want to forget it by the time they wake up in the morning. The Ducks were sloppy all over the court and relied way too much on Jackson, who finished with 17 points and seven boards, to make things happen. Michigan out-played them both offensively and defensively.

"Michigan was a much better basketball team than us tonight," Kent told OSN.

The Wolverines found scoring from all over the floor. Daniel Horton led the squad with 15 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Four other Michigan players found double figures and two others had nine points as the team shot nearly 52 percent from the floor. They also out-boarded the Ducks 39-33.

"Obviously we did not play very well in this game," Kent told OSN. "We didn't have the intensity and focus we've had in the other NIT games."

Oregon may have seen part the future in the performance of Ian Crosswhite tonight. The sophomore big man from Australia scored 14 points on 5-8 shooting.

Other than Crosswhite's 14 and Jackson's 17, no other Duck sniffed double figures. The team shot only 38 percent from the field, much of which could be attributed to Michigan's solid defense.

It was the seniors, though, who got Oregon to where they were this season and to the successes found in previous seasons.

Jay Anderson grabbed the key board against Notre Dame to seal the win in South Bend and gave a tremendous effort in every game he played. His defense also became very important for the Ducks as his career wore on. He was named to the Pac-10 All-Academic Second Team this season.

James Davis nailed 86 three pointers this season, the fourth best mark in school history. Davis also ranks second on the Oregon list and eighth in the Pac-10 for career three pointers with 242. He was also the fourth most accurate long ball shooter in school history notching nearly a 41 percent mark. Davis was a key cog in the Duck machine on their way to the Pac-10 Tournament Championship in 2002 when he was named to the All-Tournament Team.

Andre Joseph turned himself into both Mr. Consistent this year and Mr. Clutch, playing well in nearly every game and nailing many key shots late in contests. Who can forget his final minute NBA range three against Oregon State to seal the win at Mac Court? What about the trifecta he hit at Arizona State to solidify that win? Or how about his inspired NIT performances against George Mason and Notre Dame to get the Ducks to the Final Four? His defense, key shooting and emotion led this team when others weren't able to get it done.

"I can't say enough about Andre Joseph and especially with how he's played this season," Kent told OSN.

Then there was the homegrown star from quaint Creswell, Oregon, Luke Jackson. Jackson finished his career as arguably the best player ever to lace up the Nikes at Oregon. This season he was named to five All-American first teams along with a pair of second teams. He also was noted as a finalist for the Naismith, Wooden and Bayer Senior Of The Year Awards. Jackson was also on the All Pac-10 Team and the Pac-10 All Tournament Team.

Jackson finished his career at Oregon as the second all-time leading scorer, just 115 points behind Ronnie Lee. He's the seventh best rebounder with 746, ranks fourth on career assists with 422, second on the steals list with 160, sixth on long range bombs with 172, third in terms of accuracy from the free throw line where he shot just around an 85 percent mark and first in the made free throws with 503. This senior campaign also found the record books. His 656 points this year are the second most, behind Terrell Brandon's 745 in 1991. Jackson also connected on 163 free throws this year which is just six shy of the mark Freddie Jones set in 2002.

Get all that? Jackson has made his mark in the record books, but what he did on the floor will never be forgotten.

It's hard to pick a second best game for Jackson, as he had so many great games, but his signature work will be remembered as his second to last contest at Mac Court. Jackson scored 29 straight second half points on his way to 40 overall to lead the Ducks to a comeback win against the Colorado Buffalos in the first round of the NIT.

Jackson also scored a career high 42 points against Arizona and 39 at Oregon State this season. In both games he recorded double doubles with 10 boards against Zona and 16 against the Beavers.

Oregon fans will also fondly remember his effort at UCLA last season when in a game only a week before, he ripped a finger open and had to get 13 stitches. He came off the bench against UCLA and scored 27 points typifying his heart and desire.

There is no other way to describe Jackson's career other than, astounding.

"Luke Jackson has just been incredible in what he's done for this program and this community," Kent told OSN.

Anderson, Davis and Jackson will finish their careers at Oregon with an 81-46 four year record. It was a treat for Oregon fans to be able to watch those three, along with Joseph, for the past few years.

"They gave the younger guys the footprints for them to follow," Kent said to OSN. "Every team from here on out will be compared to this group that has gone through here in the past few years."

Looking ahead to next season the Ducks will look to reload and not rebuild. With the addition of seven footer Ray Schafer, who redshirted this season, and recruits Maarty Leunen, a 6-8 forward from Redmond, Chamberlain Oguchi, a 6-4 guard from Richmond, Texas and Bryce Taylor, one of the top shooting guards in the country, the Ducks hope to stay a run-and-gun team with a solid inside presence.

Tonight though, Duck fans can look back on these great seniors and the accomplishments they've had at Oregon. For those fans and this team, it's been a great ride.

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