Ducks drop Cougs 67-37

Eugene, Ore. -- For a while it looked like that at the end of 20 minutes the score would be 4-4 and halftime would resemble the seventh inning stretch. However the Oregon Ducks (12-15, 6-9) overcame a cold streak against the Washington State Cougars (11-12, 4-10) and put on what Ducks' head coach Ernie Kent called the best defensive performance at McArthur Court this season and defeated WSU 67-37. The game was also senior day, the last time two Duck players would step out on Mac Court.

Oregon's Ray Schafer (45) dunks over the defense of Washington State's Chris Henry, right, during the first half of a college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 18, 2006, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

"This was the best defense I have seen us play this year in this building," said a pleased Kent after the game.

Oregon held WSU to a horrible 26.5 percent in field goal shooting which was the fewest points the Ducks have allowed a Pac-10 opponent this season and in fact the fewest in league play since the shot clock was introduced to conference (1985-86 season). For Kent the defense was a reason to be proud but for WSU head coach Dick Bennett, the game was an embarrassment.

"Very embarrassing performance," said Bennett of his team's play on Saturday. "Very impressive performance after the first five minutes by Oregon."

The game started out slowly enough as it took over 10 minutes before the score was less similar to a baseball score and more like a basketball game. When timeout was called at the 10-minute mark, the Ducks were leading 9-3 but by the end of the half Oregon led comfortably 30-10.

The game for the Ducks was dedicated to their two seniors, guard Brandon Lincoln and center Matt Short making the last appearance on the home court. Lincoln ended up having a strong game including a spectacular ally-oop slam-dunk finished the game with 8 points. Short playing his most minutes of the season had two free throws made in 23 minutes of play.

"This was a great game for our seniors, who have been a stabilizing force for this team," said Kent. "They do everything right on and off the floor. They are gentlemen who take care of their business and make this team better."

Chamberlain Oguchi led all scorers with 18 points including three 3-pointers and was hot from the free throw line on 7-for-8 shooting. Malik Hairston had 18 points and Aaron Brooks contributed 12. For the game the Ducks shot 41.4 percent that evened out a slow start. The cold shooting in the first half showed up as the Ducks were 10-of-29 or 34.5 percent and in the second half the shooting warmed up to 14-of-19 or 48.3 percent. Free throw shooting, which has been very spotty for Oregon this year was very good at 13-of-16 or 81.3 percent.

"We had some guys that caught fire," observed Hairston. "Some guys got into a rhythm offensively and we played great defensively."

Bennett was not complimentary toward his team and for good reason. The Cougars shot just 13.0 percent in field goal shooting in the first half of the game on 3-of-23 but were somewhat better in the second half shooting 10-of-26 or 38.5 percent. Credit Oregon for keeping the Cougars off balance with an aggressive defense and some strong rebounding by the Ducks. Oregon had their best Pac-10 rebounding game with 45. Maarty Leunen was the top Oregon rebounder with 12 boards.

"Twelve rebounds is very hard to do," observed Kent of Leunen's day. "He could have had a double-double if a couple of those three pointers went down."

Leunen finished with five points on 1-of-5 shooting including 0-for-3 in 3-point shooting.

Only one player failed to see playing time for Oregon against WSU – Ivan Johnson. Johnson was benched for one game due to an undisclosed problem that occurred during the Washington game. Kent would not disclose exactly what happened but did say the problem had nothing to do with technical foul that was called on Johnson.

Lincoln and Short were asked after the game if they had any regrets about their time at Oregon. Neither indicated they did. Prior to the start of the game, both received a special introduction on the court along with their parents.

"The whole game, the whole day, walking out with my family is all kind of a blur," explained Lincoln. "I'm just thankful for all the guys that have been with me and are with me now that helped me get to this point."

The WSU game was the last home game of the season for the Ducks and as he responded to questions by media after the contest, Lincoln reflected on his teammates and their potential for the future.

"The (Oregon's sophomores) are the most talented group of guys I've ever been around," said Lincoln. "They're always optimistic and look forward the next game."

Oregon has three remaining games on its schedule. Next week the Ducks travel to Los Angeles for match ups with USC on Thursday night and then a nationally televised game with UCLA on Sunday. The following week Oregon closes out the season with a final game at Gill Collisum with Oregon State. Following those three games the Ducks then go back to Los Angeles for the Pac-10 tourney. As it stands now, the only chance the Ducks have of making the NCAA is by winning the Pac-10 tourney.

"If we can get rolling and develop a little more offensive consistency, we could be a dangerous team in the Pac-10 tournament," proclaim Kent.

Bennett admitted that Oregon is a far more talented team than his own team but he may have also been feeling the effects of such a disappointing performance. The Ducks have played competitively in the Pac-10 conference and the confidence level appears to be going up. Especially for a player like Oguchi who seems to be looking for his shots and has his coach's approval on the shots he's taken. When asked if Oguchi is the go-to guy now, Kent didn't think necessarily so pointing out Hairston's contributions on Saturday. When asked if he was happy with Oguchi's shots, he answered with an emphatic "yes."

Consistent shooting and playing the type of defense shown against WSU will go a long way in making Oregon a challenger in the Pac-10 tourney along with winning three road games. If after a season of emotional losses the Ducks have the toughness and competitiveness to accomplish this task would be a great accomplishment and something that for at least two graduating seniors to look back upon and be proud of.

Official Box Score from www.goducks.com

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