Ducks Drop Fourth Consecutive Home Loss

Eugene, Ore. -- Wanted: a jumper shooter who has never seen a jump shot that he didn't like. Ernie Kent may want to issue this want ad because on Saturday the Ducks needed somebody to score at some critical moments. However, the Oregon shooters couldn't find the touch when they most needed it and suffered its fourth consecutive home loss, 62-60 to California.

(PHOTO) Oregon's Ivan Johnson, right, blocks the vision of California's Leon Powe, forcing Powe to call a timeout, in the second half of California's 62-60 victory in a college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006, at McArthur Court in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Brian Davies)

"In the four losses, all you have to look at is our shots," explained Kent. "We have averaged 15 or 16 open shots in each of those games, we just need them to start falling more often."

While the Ducks shot a respectable 47.3 percent from the floor against the Bears on 26-of-55 field goal shooting it was during crucial times in the second half that Oregon could have taken advantage of their opportunities, but the shots would not fall in.

The Ducks actually led up until 21.8 seconds were left showing on the clock in the first half and when the horn sounded California led 31-28. In the second half Cal managed to build an 11-point lead at one point, but the Ducks would not quit and kept Cal within reach. In spurts the Ducks seemed to be ready to roar out to the lead.

Just after the second half started for example, Aaron Brooks flew high to block a shot and the crowd at McArthur court became highly involved with the game action by creating as much noise as they ever have. However, when the ball came back down court, no Duck playmaker was found to exploit Brooks' play -- opportunity missed. Throughout the second half plenty of open shot opportunities were available to Oregon, but the Ducks could not find ways to score.

"We had a chance to set the building on fire tonight with all the open shots that we were given," said Kent. "We just were unable to convert."

The Bears actually shot a poorer percentage (44 percent, on 22-of-55) than Oregon but hit three more 3-pointers (6-of-14 to 3-of-20) and made 12-of-18 free throws to Oregon's 5-of-9 free throw shooting. When it came down to the final four minutes of the contest, Oregon made a strong case to win the game, but Cal also played well, hitting the shots it needed to hold the Ducks off.

"I like how our guys wanted the ball at the end of the game," said California head coach Ben Braun. "We were strong with the ball."

Three Bears finished the game in double figures. Ayinde Ubaka scored 20 and was the game high man while Leon Powe had 15 and DeVon Hardin finished with 10. Maarty Leunen was the Ducks high scorer with 15.

"We needed to get stops," Leunen said of the game. "We were just trading bucket at the end. We never made a final push to get the lead. We never separated ourselves to take advantage of what we had."

Malik Hairston was held to six points for the night and only took a total of seven field goal shots. Hairston seemed to be too unselfish with the ball turning down open shots in order to pass the ball off to a teammate. Braun thinks his team's defense may have something to do with that.

"We did a good job defending Hairston," Braun said. "He's such a great player, that was really a challenge for our team."

In the last minute of the game the Ducks made a great effort to create a chance to win. The Ducks seemed destined to be held to within four points of the Bears, and a charging foul on Leunen with 18.7 seconds left in the game seemed like it should have been lights out. But Brooks cut the lead to 61-59 and then was put on the free throw line with one second left in the game shooting 1-and-1. Brooks made the first shot and intentionally missed the second. Somehow the speedy guard came up with his own rebound and fired a shot toward the basket. The ball bounced off the rim and Hairston tipped it back through the hoop, but time had expired making the final score 62-60.

"We call the ‘hit one, miss one' and put our biggest rebounders in the low blocks," exclaimed Kent of the final possession. "Aaron (Brooks) executed perfectly, we just didn't get the shot to go down."

During the football campaign, Oregon's football coach Mike Bellotti talked about the need for playmakers to step forward and make plays on the gridiron. This too is what is needed for the Oregon men's basketball program. This team does not want to use the excuse of youth to explain losses. Ray Schafer may have best summed up the situation when he thoughtfully responded to a question about what the team needs to do to win.

"We are doing it in spurts," said Schafer. "You see Champ (Oguchi) line it up. You see Bryce (Taylor) feeling his game. Malik (Hairston) is unstoppable with his drives. We just need to figure a way to put it all together and do it consistently."

Oregon missed a golden opportunity to make something out of the 2005-06 by losing four straight games at home, even if the team played well and only lost by a total of seven points for all four games.

Having a jump shooter not passing up shots may have helped.

Next week Oregon travels to Arizona to take on Arizona (Thursday) and Arizona State (Saturday). Both games will be televised on the Oregon Sports Network.

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