Ducks Dance To Title Game

Having been sick for the first two games in the Women's National Invitation Tournament and battling foul trouble in the third, Shaquela Williams found her stroke tonight in the biggest game of the postseason for the University of Oregon Ducks. Williams' 21 points led the Ducks to a 65-54 win over Michigan State, giving Oregon a berth in the WNIT Championship Game on Wednesday night.

Saturday's first half at Mac Court in Eugene saw Michigan State get into an unorthodox 3-2 zone, which forced the Ducks to shoot from the outside. Oregon finished 4-16 from long range in the half. The Spartan zone also gave MSU more rebounding opportunities than the Ducks. MSU outrebounded Oregon 19-10 in the period. When the horn sounded, Michigan State led 29-25.

"We knew it would be a tough game," Oregon Head Coach Bev Smith told the Oregon Sports Network after the game. "They play an interesting defense and it was a little trouble for us in the first half. We were playing good defense again, though, so I wasn't too worried."

After some back and forth basketball in the second half, Oregon jumped out on a 17-4 run, putting the Ducks up 44-37 with a little over 13 minutes left. Jamie Craighead once again came alive from three point land for the Ducks, making two big treys during the run.

Michigan State came back and tied the game at 47 near the ten minute mark. After an Oregon free throw, Shaquela Williams nailed a huge three pointer, putting Oregon up by four. On the three, Williams came off an Andrea Bills screen losing MSU's Syreeta Bromfield, allowing her a wide open shot. Bromfield was angry about the Bills screen and expressed it to the official. The referee turned and called a technical foul on Bromfield, the second against Oregon opponents in as many games. Just as in the Washington game, the 'T' spurred an Oregon run and swung momentum.

Williams made both free throws and after Candice Jackson turned the ball over, Bills sank a 14 footer and Oregon was up 55-47. Michigan State tried to get something going as senior guard Vnemina Reese made a pair of field goals to cut the Oregon lead to four, but as in the Washington game, Jamie Craighead came up huge again. Craighead drilled a big three pointer to put Oregon up seven with just over five minutes left.

The Spartans were held to five points from then on, and Williams' three pointer with 1:12 to go was the nail in the coffin as Oregon pulled out the win 65-54.

Michigan State was led by freshman center Kelli Roehrig who had 13 points and six rebounds. Bromfield and Julie Pagel both had 12 points on the night.

The 5,304 fans in attendance tonight saw an amazing performance from Williams as she scored 21 points, going 5-10 from long distance in 40 minutes.

"I love to play the whole game, and I'm happy my coaches had the confidence to let me do that," Williams told OSN.

Also scoring in double figures for the Ducks was Catherine Kraayeveld who had her fourth double double in as many WNIT games, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Craighead was clutch down the stretch again, with 11 of her 14 points coming in the second half. Bills added 11 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and three steals.

"(Kraayeveld) is a freak of nature on the basketball court. She does so many things for us. There is nothing on the basketball court she cannot do," Williams said.

Oregon's next game will be Wednesday night at 7:00 in Mac Court against the Houston Cougars of Conference USA.

"The Cougars are very athletic," said Smith. "They are very tall and very skinny. We want to use our power. They are very young, but they have made their mark on the national scene."

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