Ducks Fall in Comeback Attempt

Eugene – For the first 20 minutes of the Oregon-Arizona game it looked like the Ducks would snap out the zero-for-frustration Pac-10 season, but three Wildcats destined for the NBA took control of the second half and Oregon ended up losing 87-77.

(PHOTO) Michael Dunigan throws down two of his nine points while Jordan Hill (left) can only watch. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

The Ducks were only down one at the end of the first half 37-36, but when the second half started Oregon ran into a "stretch" that has been too common this season and Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise got hot for the Wildcats now 16-8, 6-5.

Scorching hot.

"Defensively we didn't have an answer in the first 5-6 minutes," observed Ernie Kent of his team's second half performance. "We did battle hard."

In a stretch of 17 possessions in the second half, Arizona scored 16 times and for Kent that was the obvious difference in the game. Arizona ended up shooting at a 55.6-percent clip going 30-for-54 including 11-of-20 in 3s. Oregon shot respectably at 46 percent on 29-of-63 and 12-of-30 in 3-pointers.

Budinger finished the game as high scorer with 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Hill was right behind with 24 and Wise ended with 17. Things had been much more even in the first half, partially due to Oregon's Mike Dunigan being able to stay in the game with no fouls and playing Hill about as well as anyone can. However after halftime Oregon, according to Kent, ran into fatigue and the Wildcats, being the older and more experienced team was able play on.

Dunigan showed a lot of folks watching the game that he is ready to be a prime time player, and it's just a matter of time before he can play a complete game. Dunigan played 25 minutes had six rebounds nine points and two blocks.

"He's a real physical player," said Hill of Dunigan. "He's strong. His moves are still raw, just like me. He's going to be a real good player."

When it was clear that Dunigan need a breather, Hill saw that as a green light as did whatever he pleased underneath against Josh Crittle, Drew Wiley and Churchill Odia.

"He's a big man, a beast," said Wiley of Hill. "He's strong and knows what he is doing."

The Ducks would love to bring Crittle in to play along side of Dunigan, giving the Ducks a much bigger and stronger presence low. However at this point if they both play together for extended minutes and fatigue at the same time, then Oregon has no big man left on the bench to see action. Part of the solution according to Kent is for his team to learn to play through the fatigue.

"It's going to take time," confessed Kent. "Our physical fitness will progress naturally, but our mental toughness we need to get to."

Oregon was down as many as 19 points in the second half and it looked like the game would be a complete blow out. The Ducks managed to cut the game down to 8 points at 85-77 with 30 seconds but could not chop the lead any more than that. Timely 3-point shooting by Tajuan Porter, who ended up with 21 points and a surprising breakout game by Wiley left the Ducks with some positives about the game. Wiley finished the game with 18 points including 5-of-9 outside the 3-point arc.

"I know I should be should be shooting," said Wiley. "I am trying to get on the floor as much as I can, so I can get better. I was happy with my game today."

The Ducks now fall to 6-17, 0-11 for the season. What if anything can be done to reverse this?

"We need to keep on believing in ourselves," emphasized Porter. "We are almost there. We have been working hard and we're getting better. The game is all about mental focus."

Notes:
Today marked the ground breaking of the Matthew Knight Arena, or Matt Court as it will be known. At halftime of the game, University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer announced that the Pat Kilkenny family donated $5 million dollars to the University and subsequently the new court at the Matthew Knight Arena will be call Kilkenny Court.

Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny then spoke and encouraged fans to keep believing in the basketball team and coaching staff. Kilkenny then introduced Phil Knight to the crowd and Knight drew the chat from the student section, "Thank you Phil." Knight donated $100 million to the Arena project. The arena is named after Knight's late son Matthew, who died in a diving accident in 2004.

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