Ducks Take Over in the Second Half

Eugene, Ore. -- The No. 9 ranked Oregon Ducks (18-1, 6-1) kicked in the after-burners in the second half of their game with the California Bears at McArthur Court on Saturday afternoon and came away with a 92-84 win in front of a frantic crowd of 9,087. Five players scored in double figures for Oregon led by Aaron Brooks' 22.

(PHOTO) Malik Hairston "posterizes" Cal's Ryan Anderson (34) for two of his 19 points in Oregon's 92-84 victory over Cal on Saturday, January 20, 2006 at McArthur Court in Eugene, Ore. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

Brooks showed senior leadership and his teammates followed his example by putting on an impressive performance of conditioning, defense and sharp shooting. The Ducks shot 56.6 percent for the game on 30-of-53 shooting including 12-of-22 in 3-pointers and were deadly at the free throw line sinking 20-of-22 attempts.

"We definitely wanted to come out in the second half and get the first lick, and I think we did," said junior forward Malik Hairston of the game. "I think Aaron (Brooks) went on a 9-0 run by himself."

Hitting four 3-pointers on five attempts and shooting 8-for-12 from the field, Brooks led the way with Hairston adding 19. One of Hairston's baskets was an incredible slam-dunk that ignited the Mac Court crowd. Tajuan Porter added 15 while Bryce Taylor put in 14 with Maarty Leunen chipping in 12 with seven assists.

"There is no need for us to panic because we have so much talent on this team," observed Ernie Kent of his team. "We are playing in harmony this year, everyone knows that they can share the ball and still get their own numbers."

Oregon trailed at halftime 46-38 primarily due to some hot shooting by Cal Freshman Ryan Anderson, who showed everyone in Mac Court why he's so highly praised with his crisp passing, aggressive rebounding and a sharp shooting touch. Oregon went into the locker room and made some adjustments, particularly in how they would play Anderson. In the second half Leunen relied on help from his teammates and with the Ducks' great athleticism and conditioning, Oregon was able to switch effectively and deny Anderson the same freedom he enjoyed in the first half.

"Oregon did a good job," said California's Ben Braun of the Ducks' defensive effort in the second half. "They locked down pretty well inside. We probably got a little too perimeter-oriented in the second half."

Second half started out with the Ducks trailing by eight but there was an air of excitement from the fans. Brooks' 3-point shot with 19:10 electrified the crowd. Hairston rebounded a missed Cal shot and Leunen finished off the play with a hook shot cutting the score to 46-43. Brooks then hit another three and the place went wild.

Brooks again drove the middle and laid the ball off the backboard softly to even the score at 48. Cal called time to settle down the raucous Oregon crowd, but the fervent Duck fans would have none of it.

Time resumed and Braun's troops looked confused. The referees calmed the roar with a call on Porter but the noise level immediately increased. Ayinde Ubaka quieted the crowd with a jumper but Bryce Taylor ignited things again with a three making the score 51-50 Ducks.

Cal started making mistakes as Ubaka uncharacteristically stepped out of bounds and a T.V. timeout fortuitously calmed the crowd for a minute. Oregon's athleticism and maturity showed up around the 15-minute mark with solid passing. Taylor found a streaking Leunen for a dunk after a steal and Braun used another timeout.

Porter's 3 with about 14 minutes left in the game set the crowd off again and the Ducks look ready for the kill. Leunen spun around for a sweet jumper in the key and the score was 60-52 Ducks. Omar Wilkes responded but when the ball went back to the other end, Hairston drew a foul and went to the line shooting free throws. Hairston sank both and Oregon led 62-54.

Cal made a run when Ubaka and Eric Vierneisel hit 3-pointers and Jerome Randle scored on a lay in. Kent called time to restore some order for his team. Brooks, the senior got the crowd back into it with a 3-pointer to make 65-62 with 10:40 left.

Porter made an acrobatic shot with 9:30 left giving the Ducks a 5-point lead at 67-62. Viemeisel sank two free throws but the Ducks responded with a Taylor jumper. The ball went back the other way but Hairston swatted a shot out of bounds. Leunen stole the inbound pass and threw the ball down court. Brooks was fouled going to the hoop but was fouled. He sank two free throws as a result of the foul making it 71-64. Wilkes hit a 3 and the Ducks turned the ball over on the next possession. Wilkes charged into a crowd turning ball back to the Ducks.

Taylor hit two free throws to extend the lead to 73-67. Leunen and Brooks hooked up on a nice back door to make the score 75-69. Hairston brought the house down with his shocking slam-dunk from the left side over Anderson. Anderson had to take a seat with his fourth foul as a result and Hairston finished the play off by converting a free throw. That made it 78-69 Oregon.

Hairston hit a big 3 to give the Ducks a 10-point lead but Theo Roberston responded with a three of his own. It looked like a 3-point shooting contest when Brooks came back and hit another 3-pointer. When a timeout sounded with 3:38 left in the game, Oregon led 84-74.

Porter went to the line with 2:56 left in the game and sank two shots building the Ducks lead to 12, 86-74. Ubaka answered to keep Cal in range at 86-76. Anderson went to the line on a one-and-one and sank both, and Cal called a 30-second timeout trailing 78-86 with 2:19 left in the game. Oregon inbound the ball when time resumed and broke Cal's full court press. Porter took an ill-advised jumper and the Ducks went back on defense but Cal was unable to score.

Taylor was fouled on the ensuing possession and the Ducks were in the penalty. Taylor hit both shots and the Ducks were back up by 10. Anderson played tough for a field goal but the clock was draining. Cal took its final timeout with 1:01 left in the game trailing 88-80.

Porter was fouled with 49.1 seconds left in the contest and he was automatic and sank both. When Robertson's attempted lay in missed the mark, Leunen rebounded and was fouled. He sank both charity shots and gave Oregon a 12-point lead. Cal hit two more field goals but the final whistle blew and Oregon had a 92-84 win.

Kent, never completely satisfied, indicated that his team could do more.

"We scored 56 points in the second half and put up incredible numbers in the game and yet I think that we can still play better," admitted Kent.

California shot played well, shooting 53.4 percent for the game on 31-of-58 shooting including 10-for-21 in 3-point shots. The Bears were perfect from the free throw line going 12-for-12. Four Bears were in double figures led by Brown with 19. Ubaka and Wilkes both had 17 while Anderson contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds.

"It's frustrating obviously to put those kinds of numbers on the board," stated Braun. "Those stats are usually enough to beat most teams and it was not enough tonight. Give Oregon credit. They came out with an explosive second half. They hit some tough shots."

Oregon now must go back onto the road and perhaps face the biggest challenge of the year – playing a game without Aaron Brooks. Brooks must sit out next Thursday's game with Washington because of an incident in last year's Pac-10 Tourney. Brooks is producing conference MVP numbers, but next Thursday in Seattle, Oregon must figure out a way to beat the Huskies on the road.

"We will be missing a key ingredient for the Washington game with Aaron Brooks being unable to play, but we are going to have to toughen up and find other ways to score the ball and get that win," confessed Kent of next week's contest at Washington.

The Ducks will take on the Huskies next Thursday with tipoff scheduled for 8 p.m. The game will be carried on FSN.

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