Ducks Crush Bears 81-63

Los Angeles – The Oregon Ducks (25-7, 11-7) are proving to be the hottest team on the West Coast as they pasted the California Bears (16-17, 6-12) 81-63 in the third session of the Pac-10 Tournament tonight. Having the best shooting half of the season that gave them a 21-point halftime lead Oregon had enough cushions to withstand a furious comeback effort in the final 20 minutes by Cal.

(PHOTO) Tajuan Porter led all Oregon scorers with 24 points on 6-10 3-pt shooting. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

"In the last four games coming into this game with Washington State, Washington, Oregon State and of course Arizona last night we've played some of the best defense since I've been at Oregon," said Oregon's Ernie Kent of the effort his team put out on the court. "This team has really bought in understanding what defense does for us. We've always been a good been a terrific offensive team and we're really starting to dig in and be tough-minded defensively. That's as good a first half as we've ever played."

Behind freshman Tajuan Porter's 3-point shooting, the Ducks jumped out early and coasted easily to a big lead after 20 minutes. Porter finished the contest with a game high 24 points on 8-for-12 shooting including hitting six shots beyond the 3-point mark. Porter now needs one more 3-pointer to tie Orlando Williams (1995) at 94 to become the all-time leader in made 3-point field goals. The shot a blistering 69.2 percent in the first half and cooled slightly for the game ending up with a season high 62.5 percent field goal accuracy for the game.

"I just got confidence in my shot," Porter said of his performance. "I just try to take good open shots, my teammates find me and I knock them down."

As good as the Ducks were shooting the ball, they controlled the tempo by playing a tenacious defense of quick hands that knocked the ball away from the Cal players and quick feet that prevent Bear drives. The effort seemed to drain the energy out of the Bears who were playing their third game in three days.

"Just run ‘em," Porter responded to a question of the Ducks' wanted to do against an already tired team. "They played three games in three days so run ‘em and keep ‘em fatigued."

Cal couldn't penetrate a tough Oregon defense in the first half and had to settle on outside shooting and their tired legs failed them. However, as dispirited as it could have been the Bears came out with great intensity in the second half and whittled the Ducks' lead as close as six points with 7:17 left in the game at 59-53. However the Ducks got help from Malik Hairston who scored on a lay in and converted a big free throw on a foul called on the play and the Bears got no closer.

Hairston recorded his season high with 22 points to go along with four rebounds and was a very tough presence on the inside. Maarty Leunen ended up with 13 points and Aaron Brooks had 10.

Cal only had one player in double figures. Theo Robertson finished the game with 17 points.

Oregon had one less free throw than California but made one more shot (12-for-16 to 11-of-17). The Ducks had a total of 29 rebounds to 25 for the Bears.

The Bears simply had too deep of a hole to get out of get in serious touch with the game. The amount of energy that it took for them to get as near as they did half way through the second half left them leg weary at the end of the game. Even though Oregon did not play with the same rhythm for the first 10 minutes of the second half as they did in the first half, in the second half when they needed to make a play they did. Whether it was Hairston on the inside converting big shot and getting fouled or Porter drilling long bombs, the Ducks were too much for California to handle and the Bears never found a comfortable pace.

"It's awfully hard to create tempo when you can't get defensive stops," said a frustrated California Head Coach Ben Braun.

As was apparent in last night's win over Arizona the Ducks are peaking at the right time for a successful run in the Pac-10 Tourney and next week into the NCAA's. About the only thing left to happen for Oregon is Champerlain Oguchi to find his shooting touch. Oguchi only took three shots and two of them were in the waning moments of the game. Maybe it is just a matter of rhythm and stroke. So far in this tournament the Ducks have found someone to fulfill that role. Last night it was Brooks, tonight Porter and somehow as smoothly as Oregon is playing it isn't hard to imagine someone else will have a turn.

Kent held his emotions in check as he talked about his team and what could be ahead for them. The disappointment of last season and the outcry of fans that started calling for his head seem to play on his mind and winning has been the cure that has salved the wounds.

"If you look at a 13-chapter book they are on chapter 10 right now at what they've done and what they've accomplished form last year," Kent remarked. "I could not be any prouder of them.

Now the Ducks stand on the threshold of their second Pac-10 Tourney championship under Kent. Last year fans were in an uproar but with a year of growth and patience the Ducks now stand at 25 wins and with more win will match his best ever at Oregon. Maybe Kent has something special in mind when he says the team is on chapter 10 of 13. It is hard to imagine a team shooting better or being tougher on defense than the Duck team that is dominating the tournament in Los Angeles.

Kent has reason to be proud and certainly there could be some great chapters ahead for the Ducks and their fans.

Notes: Before the start of tonight's games, Pac-10 Commissioner announce a 5-year extension to an agreement to keep the Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles and at the Staples Center.

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