Ducks Thump Huskies 84-73

If ever there was a moment that looked like the end of the season for the 2005-06 Oregon Ducks (15-17) it was when the first half horn sounded. The Ducks trailed the Washington Huskies 41-30. Oregon's point guard Aaron Brooks had been ejected and the Ducks had zero points from their star Chambarlain Oguchi. However, 20 minutes later the Ducks ran off the floor with a stunning 84-73 win in the Pac-10 Tournament.

Washington's Jamaal Williams, right, grabs a rebound as Oregon's Ivan Johnson looks on during the first half of their Pac-10 conference basketball tournament game, Thursday, March 9, 2006, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

What was it that turned things around for Oregon in the second half?

A great effort from the Ducks' shooting star and some determined hard nosed play by every man that set foot on the court -- even a former janitor.

Chambarlain Oguchi had been held scoreless in the first half but in the second 20 minutes he lit up the nets for 22 points on six 3-points conversions and 4-for-4 shooting from the free throw line. Combined with the six 3-pointers from last night's win over the Washington State Cougars, Oguchi became the Pac-10 Tourney's leading 3-point scorer.

"Coach kept telling me to stay with my shot," Oguchi told Fox Sports Net. "I struggled in the first half, they did a good job of checking me out. I just stayed with my shot, just kept shooting. That's what coach told me to and that's what I do."

While Oguchi was setting the nets on fire, Malik Hairston aided the cause with 20 points including some timely free throw shooting at the end of the game. Hairston was 7-of-8 from the free throw line and the Ducks were 17-of-21 or 81 percent from the charity line for the game.

In the previous two games between the Ducks and Huskies, Oregon had been badly out rebound and dominated by the Husky front line. However, the Ducks played much more aggressively led by Ivan Johnson's 16 points and 10 rebounds including five offensive boards. In the second half in particular Oregon would not allow the Husky big men to crash the boards and for a while the play became very rough. It became a very macho game in the second half, a tough guy contest.

"Coach (Ernie Kent) told us before the game that we have to win the tough guy battle," Oguchi told the Oregon Sports Network. "I think we did that."

The physical contact started early on in the contest and the game was marred when Oregon's Aaron Brooks knocked Washington's Ryan Appleby to the floor with just less than 10 minutes left in the first half. Brooks was thrown out of the game for a fighting foul and will be suspended for the next game because of the incident.

The Ducks found themselves down a crucial player and that seemed to draw the team together, particularly after the halftime break.

"He's a vital part of this team," said Oguchi of Brooks. "When he went down that was a time for us to rally together even more."

At one point the Ducks trailed by 13 points (51-38) but steadily the Ducks worked back into the game and tied the contest on an Oguchi 3-pointer at 57 all with just over eight minutes to play in the game. The Oregon comeback seemed to cause the Huskies to panic and in the final minutes of the game Washington turned the ball over on several consecutive plays. The Huskies had a total of 19 turnovers for the contest compared to Oregon's 12. Washington was led in scoring by Brandon Roy with 30 while Jameel Williams added 15 and Bobby Jones chipped in 10.

"Coach Kent has been saying that they just haven't found out what it takes yet to get it clicking," Assistant Coach Mark Hudson told OSN of the team's focus. "We're close, but they just haven't gotten it, perhaps this is the night that gets us rolling."

With Brooks gone, Brandon Lincoln handled most of the point guard duties in the second half, but he was hampered by foul trouble. When Lincoln was called for his fourth personal foul, seldom used Adrain Stelly came in and had perhaps his biggest game of his career. Stelly, a walk on from Portland's Benson High School, hit a 3-point shot and fed a pass to Oguchi for the tying basket of the game. Stelly had started his career at Oregon not as a basketball player at McArthur Court in Eugene, but as a janitor on a work-study program. Even though others may receive most of the attention for the win, Oguchi for one knows that the contribution of Stelly and the rest of his teammates are the reasons for the success against Washington.

"We do it all together, collectively as a unit," said Oguchi of his teammates. "Everybody contributed to this win."

The win against the Huskies may have eased some of the sting of disappointment the team felt over the season, particularly with all the close losses the Ducks suffered. While the Ducks still need to win two more games to make this a breakeven season the team has never given up on itself.

"We have a never quite attitude," said Oguchi. "Even through the tough losses we keep coming back and fighting. I'm just real proud of my team and being part of a team like this."

The win may also quiet some critics of the program, at least for one day, and if there is speculation of unrest among the players it would be hard to tell judging from Oguchi's comments.

"Coach tells us what to do and we go out there and do it to the best of our ability," commented Oguchi of the team's unity. "We let all the stuff on the outside stay on the outside, we just know that we are together."

Oregon task becomes even greater as they must play again tomorrow against California with the tip-off tentatively scheduled for 8:45 p.m.

The Ducks though can at least savor the moment and enjoy the win over the Huskies. Was it particularly special for Oguchi?

"It was lovely," said Oguchi of the win over Washington. "It was definitely sweeter."

Official Box Score from www.goducks.com.

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