And The Freshmen Shall Lead Them

Some called them the Class of the Century. That's about right. In a game where the Ducks battled a fired up Fresno State team, a packed house in a new arena and, at times, the officiating, three Oregon freshmen stepped up to lead the Duck men to a huge victory, 83-82.

Duck freshman Bryce Taylor made the biggest shot of his young career, while with the Ducks down one and time running down he grabbed the rebound of an Ian Crosswhite missed jumper, sprung back into the air, double clutched and nailed the put back while being fouled.

"We're supposed to crash the boards on that last shot," Taylor told OSN. "I just crashed and got the rebound and put the shot in."

With only 0.8 seconds on the clock, the Oregon coaching staff told Taylor to miss the free throw on purpose to force the clock to run down as Fresno State was without any timeouts. He did, and the Bulldogs (6-1) didn't get a quality shot away.

Oregon Coach Ernie Kent told OSN that they designed the play for Malik Hairston to take the shot. The fact that Hairston was even on the floor at that point was mystifying.

With 16.2 seconds left in the game Oregon's Aaron Brooks was called for a five seconds call trying to inbound the ball in the backcourt. On Fresno's ensuing inbound play, Hairston was called for, according to OSN radio and television broadcasts, his fifth foul. The ball wasn't even in play and a quick whistle by the official supposedly fouled Hairston out of the game.

The officials gave the Ducks their one minute to get a sub in the game and the Ducks (6-1) were ready to put freshman Maarty Leunen in the game but when play resumed, Leunen hadn't checked in and Hairston was on the floor. Nobody said anything so they played on.

Fresno's Donovan Morris, whom Hairston fouled, nailed his pair of free throws, putting Fresno State up one, which set up Taylor's spectacular buzzer beater.

For the four minutes prior to Taylor's shot, the Ducks were scoreless. After leading 81-68 on Ian Crosswhite's third straight bucket, Fresno went on a 14-0 run.

"They were playing really aggressive on D and were making shots down at the other end," Leunen said.

Ja'Vance Coleman accounted for nine of the Bulldog points during that run. His four-point play with 3:04 left sent the Save Mart Center into a frenzy and gave Fresno momentum for their run.

Another Coleman three with :16.2 left brought Fresno to within a single point.

"I let (Coleman) get too many three pointers," Taylor said.

Coleman actually finished with 23 points on 6-11 shooting from long range. The sophomore was one of many Bulldogs nailing shots from outside. They finished only 12-30 from long range but seemed to hit them when it mattered.

During the four-minute scoreless streak for the Ducks, it seemed like they couldn't buy a call from the officials. A questionable travel was called on Ian Crosswhite. Hairston went to the rim and was smacked on the head but no call was made. Add in the five seconds call on Brooks and Hairston's "fifth" foul among others and the Ducks overcame quite a bit.

"There was a lot of adversity there with some tough calls in the first half and some tough calls down the stretch," Kent told OSN.

Until the Fresno run, Oregon had done well to hold the 13 point lead. After climbing back from a nine-point deficit in the first half, the game was tied at intermission. The Ducks then jumped on the Bulldogs at the start of the second half, playing tough D and getting their transition game going.

The Ducks saw great efforts from all three freshmen who played major minutes. Taylor finished with 15 points, Hairston had 11, and Leunen was one point away from a double-double with nine points and 10 boards in 26 minutes off the bench.

Leunen has done a lot of the little things this year but was asked to contribute more on the offensive end by Kent.

"Coach called my number and I was able to hit shots, grab rebounds and play defense; the things I'm supposed to do," Leunen told OSN.

Leunen also threw a pass that opened up what could be called the dunk of the year.

With just about a buck ten left in the first half, the ball went to Leunen on the left side of the front court. He spotted Hairston wide open on the right side, threw a blazing cross-court pass and the freshman from Detroit took off.

Hairston rose up until he got to the rim where Fresno State's Mustafa Al-Sayyad and Donovan Morris were waiting. He threw down right on Al-Sayyad's mug in a one-handed dunk that was a cross between Dominique Wilkins' power and Clyde Drexler's gliding athleticism.

Bryce Taylor had a pair of big dunks of his own. The most spectacular was on an alley-oop from half court by Aaron Brooks. Taylor flew above everyone and powered it home.

Brooks had a very good game himself. The sophomore scored 16 points and dished out seven assists while only committing one turnover.

But it was the freshmen's day today. Taylor, Hairston and Leunen did what it took to win this game in Fresno.

"It was a tough game on the road," Taylor told OSN. "The fans were really into it but we just stuck together and gutted out a road win."

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