|Aaron Brooks' rejects the dunk attempt of Cal's Eric Vierneisel (14). (Photo by Chris Wilson)|
There were not many bright moments for Oregon in the first half, but Aaron Brooks provided the defensive highlight of the game with about three minutes before the break. After a Brook's turnover, Cal's Eric Vierneisel. Vierneisel, who measures 6' 7", elevated for what seemed like a sure dunk. Out of nowhere, the diminutive Brooks flew across the key sending the ball out of bounds and sending Oregon's crowd into a frenzy. It was a precursor of things to come. In the second half Brooks took a charge to turn away a Bear possession, and the inspired Ducks held the Bears to 38 second half points after giving up 46 in the first half.
|Aaron Brooks (0) draws a foul late in the 2nd half. (Photo by Chris Wilson)|
After a sluggish first half, the Ducks came out of the locker room inspired, consistently took the ball to the basket, and brought the crowd into the game. To go with his stellar defensive effort, Brooks had another spectacular offensive game, and beyond statistics, once again provided Oregon with timely buckets. He led off the second half with two three-pointers and a lay-up to help get Oregon even at 48-48. With 10:52 left, an 8-0 Cal run tied the score and put the pressure on the Ducks. Brooks promptly hit a three and Oregon never again lost the lead. It was the kind of senior leadership that had the crowd chanting "MVP." "The crowd really got into it when we made some plays," said Brooks, "It's good to have them all back. We've missed them for a while."
|Maarty Luenen throws down. (Photo by Chris Wilson)|
Once again Maarty Leunen quietly had the kind of game that has Oregon fans feeling grateful he chose to be a Duck. With 12 points on 4-6 shooting, Leunen added five rebounds and actually led the team with seven assists. With only two turnovers, he also chipped in a steal and made both his free throws. For a big man, Luenen runs the break and did so on Saturday getting a big dunk in the second half (photo right). Battling for every rebound and playing tough defense down low, Leunen quietly is making a case for Pac-10 honors come seasons end.
|Malik Hairston takes it strong to the basket for two. (Photo by Chris Wilson)|
If there was any doubt whether Malik Hairston's heal was healthy, this game erased those doubts. In the first half, Hairston came out and hit four of five shots from the floor, leading the Ducks with nine points and keeping the game from getting away early. Then, with 6:11 left in the second half, Malik made a play Duck fans will be talking about all season. Taking a long pass from Aaron Brooks, he drove the baseline, rose up over Cal's Ryan Anderson and emphatically hammered down a one handed dunk while getting fouled. It set the Pit on fire. To cap it off, he made the free throw and a minute and a half later hit a huge three. Was this his break out game? Here's hoping. The Ducks will need him on Thursday when Aaron Brooks is forced to sit out the Washington game on the road.