"Before the season, Coach (Ernie) Kent told us we were going to have to play like juniors and seniors," Oregon's Chamberlain Oguchi said.
And finally, in Pac-10 play, they all did.
Oguchi, who came off the bench, led the team with 12 points, scoring eight of his points in the last four minutes of the first half. He also went 3-5 from long range, seemingly answering each Wazzu three with one of his own.
After the Ducks held the lead for all of the game, Washington State (10-12, 5-8) took their first lead when Kyle Weaver hit a pair of free throws following Aaron Brooks' fifth foul. The Cougars led 66-65 with 2:56 left and the Ducks didn't have Brooks on the floor.
In came Brandon Lincoln. After a couple possessions for both teams that resulted in nothing, the Cougs came down the court and put the ball in Daven Harmeling's hands. He went to the hoop and ran over Lincoln and the charge was called. Oregon (12-9, 4-8) now had the ball with just over a minute left. It was the second charge that Lincoln had taken in the second frame.
"When Aaron went out, I didn't think there was any panic," Oregon Head Coach Ernie Kent said. "Brandon did a great job."
On the other end, Jordan Kent drove baseline and saw freshman Bryce Taylor standing wide open in the lane. Kent threw a beautiful pass from under the hoop, through traffic, to Taylor who finger-rolled it up and in.
"I just moved to the open area and was pretty much wide open for a lay up," Taylor said. He finished with 12 points and three assists.
The play gave the Ducks the lead back for good. On Washington State's next possession, Derrick Low, who had been hot all day, going 7-12 from the floor for 19 points, missed a three and the Ducks ran. Bryce Taylor wound up with the ball going hard at the rim and was hammered from behind by Jeff Varem, a play that was called a flagrant foul.
Washington State Head Coach Dick Bennett stormed the floor after the officials while Taylor lay on the floor in pain. Eventually Taylor got up and went to the line and nailed one free throw putting the Ducks up two.
Lincoln was fouled on the ensuing Oregon possession, but uncharacteristically missed both free throws so Wazzu had a chance with less than 20 seconds to play.
The Cougars set up their offense and looked to throw an inlet pass but freshman Malik Hairston made a great play for the ball, tipping it away and making the steal.
"They didn't know we were going to switch…I went with (Thomas) Kelati and Maarty (Leunen) was going to stay so I just jumped out there and got the steal," Hairston said.
Hairston nailed one of two free throws at the other end, so the Cougars had one last shot but it came up short and the Ducks snuck out of Mac Court with the win.
The freshman from Detroit came up big on the offensive end for the Ducks as well, with 11 points to go with eight boards on 5-7 shooting.
Oregon's other true freshman, Maarty Leunen also had a huge game. In a starting role, Leunen had 11 points and seven boards along with a block and three steals. He also jump started Oregon's offense early with five quick points in the first couple of minutes.
Truly, the freshmen were the reason Oregon won this game, something not lost on the Duck team.
"A bright future," Oguchi said.
With the scoring so spread out today, it was obvious that ball distribution was key. Aaron Brooks played a great game and picked up nine points and a career high nine assists in 34 minutes.
Next week the Ducks will make the road trip to Arizona and Arizona State. With the Pac-10 Tournament looming not far away, the Ducks need to start picking up wins to sneak into that eighth slot in the tourney. Today's helped tremendously.
"We could not afford to lose this game," Ernie Kent said.
But more than tournament ramifications, Kent was happy for his team.
"They needed some success and deserved some success," he said.
Box Score from www.goducks.com.
The Freshmen Lead Them Over The Hump
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