Second half meltdown dooms Ducks

Another game, but the same old story for the Ducks. Turnovers, awful free throw shooting, and poor execution down the stretch cost Oregon (12-11, 4-10 ) a key game, as they lost 66-56 to Arizona State (18-9, 7-8 ) in Tempe.

The Ducks have no one but themselves to blame for this one. While they seemingly had a stranglehold on the game early in the second half, it quickly disenengrated into a series of missed free throws and poor decision making.

Arizona State guard Steve Moore keyed a second half run for the Sun Devils, scoring 17 of his 22 points in the pivotal half. While Moore got hot, Oregon's shooters cooled off. The Ducks managed only three points in the last seven minutes and gave themselves no chance to catch the Sun Devils, missing six key free throws down the stretch on their way to a 6-16 night from the line. Their offensive execution was also hampered by 19 turnovers, compared to ASU's six.

The game started well for the Ducks with Malik Hairston picking up where he left off in Thursday's career game versus Arizona, scoring eight of Oregon's first 10 points as the Ducks took an early 10-2 lead. Oregon kept the Sun Devils in the rearview mirrow taking a 30-25 lead into the half, while shooting 43% from the field, including 5-11 from three point range.

The Ducks seemed to take control of the game early in the second half opening the half with a 9-0 run, extending their lead to 14. But then it all came unraveled. Insert Moore, the streaky guard, who began to assert himself, keying a 17-4 run. Moore drove to the basket and hit a series of nifty shots, including two three-pointers, during the pivotal stretch. All-Conference post man Ike Diogu was too much for the Oregon big men to handle, and he was clutch down the stretch, with powerful moves to the basket, and key free throws. Diogu contributed 23 points with 9 rebounds in 40 minutes.

"This is a frustrating loss," coach Ernie Kent said. "I thought we had complete control of the game, but they out-toughed us down the stretch. And free throw shooting continues to haunt us."

Point guard Aaron Brooks was the lone bright spot for the Ducks in the second half, scoring on a series of tough drives to the basket. Brooks scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half, yet his play was somewhat erratic again committing six turnovers, after a 10 turnover night Thursday. Brooks also managed to connect on only 1-5 shots from behind the arc.

For a team that seems to be on the verge of something special, the late-game meltdowns have been frustrating. Time is running out on Oregon's season, and a trip to the postseason seems less and less likely with each loss. With only four league games left for the Ducks, the margain for error in being eligible for the Pac-10 tournament is getting awfully tight. They remain one game behind Cal for the eighth spot in the league standings, with two key games against the Bay Area schools next week at home.


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