MSU Storms back to Defeat Ducks 76-69

8th seed Mississippi State (23-10) stormed back from a ten point deficit at halftime to defeat the 9th seed Oregon Ducks (18-14) 76-69 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Ducks had no answer for senior big man Charles Rhodes who dominated Oregon inside scoring a career-high 34 points to go along with nine rebounds. Oregon was led by Malik Hairston who scored 22 in his final appearance as a Duck.

Oregon guard Malik Hariston (1) takes a shot between Mississippi State guards Barry Stewart (22) and Mississippi State's Ben Hansbrough (11) in the second half of the first-round at the NCAA South Regional, Friday, March 21, 2008, in North Little Rock, Ark. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oregon started the game in impressive fashion leading the entire first half after Mississippi State scored the first bucket of the SEC vs. Pac-10 contest. Hairston and TaJuan Porter came out firing from three-point range and gave Oregon an early 11-4 lead. The Ducks would go on to hit 7 of 17 shots from long range in the half and took a 38-28 lead into the break.

Hairston began the scoring in the 2nd half with his third three of the game and the Ducks owned their biggest lead at 41-28. From that point on, the Bulldogs behind Rhodes and sophomore guard Barry Stewart who scored all 16 of his points in the second half including four critical threes, clawed their way all the way back.

The Bulldogs took their first lead since 2-0 at 53-52 on a thunderous dunk by Rhodes during a 12-0 Mississippi State run. Mississippi State started ice cold from the field, missing their first 12 three-point attempts before Stewart got hot from behind the arc.

Oregon was just the opposite starting the game hot from the field. Their touch disappeared in the 2nd half however as Oregon relied on the three but hit only 2 of 21 shots from three-point territory in the final stanza.

Oregon senior Maarty Leunen, voted the team MVP, scored 13 points and had 7 rebounds. However, both Leunen and sophomore Joevan Catron battled foul trouble the whole game with both eventually fouling out.

Porter scored 18 points on 5 of 17 shooting. Senior Bryce Taylor added nine points but hit only 2 of 12 shots in his final appearance in a Duck uniform.

Oregon ended up shooting only 34% for the game on 22 of 64 from the field. Mississippi State, on the other hand, ended up at 47% on 24-51 shooting. The Bulldogs also controlled the glass, outrebounding Oregon 39-31.

It was a disappointing season for Oregon who figured to finish better after losing only one starter from last years squad that advanced to the elite eight of the NCAA tourney. The future is bright however with both sophomores Porter and Catron returning to go along with a highly touted and nationally touted recruiting class.

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