Ducks get first Pac-10 win of the season

Eugene – It may have felt like the Ducks had just knocked off the No. 1 team in the country to the student section affectionately known as the Pit Crew, but it was a significant win as Oregon (7-20, 1-14) beat Stanford 68-60. Oregon finally got a Pac-10 win and in doing so may have found some solutions to a very frustrating year.

(PHOTO) Oregon guard Matthew Humphrey celebrates sinking a three-point shot in the final moments of the game to put Oregon in the lead during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game against Stanford in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009. Humphrey scored nine points as Oregon won their first game of the season 68-60. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

"The started the game well, they started the second half well," said Ernie Kent of team's performance. "And they closed out the game extremely well too."

Starting out and closing particularly in the second half have been the team's big hurdle all season long this year in the Pac-10 race, but today the Ducks found some shooters, ball handlers, defenders and rebounders in those critical moments that decide basketball games. Kent thinks his young team is finally growing up and today for sure names like Matt Humphrey, Josh Crittle and Mike Dunigan made it known that they were tired of losing. Humprey emerged with nine points but it was the dramatic fashion that he seemingly came out of nowhere to hit key shots, dish out assists and make big steals. With six seconds left in the game and the Ducks up by five, 65-60, Humphrey stole the ball and streaked down court for a lay in and was fouled. After knocking down the charity shot the Ducks were assured of the win and the crowd was ready to storm the court.

"Matt stepped up big," said teammate Tajuan Porter of Humphrey's play. "His steal was the clinching point of the game. I'm happy for the freshmen. We accomplished a lot today."

Crittle and Dunigan were a presence tonight as they combined for 13 rebounds, 22 points, three blocks and two steals. The good news was that neither was seriously endanger of fouling out though Crittle committed his fourth late in the game. The two controlled the inside even while they weren't in at the same time, they managed to maintain a smooth flow underneath the basket.

"Our big were physical, patient and poised tonight," said Kent of his two big men Crittle and Dunigan. "I'm so proud of Josh Crittle. He was the most poised today out on the floor that I have ever seen him. Mike (Dunigan) and Josh have the chance to be the best pair of big men in the conference for a long time and I think they showed a lot of potential tonight."

Dunigan had 14 points and eight boards and was especially good at collecting follow up baskets. Crittle seemed to be right in the middle of the key to pull down key rebounds and had three offensive boards of his total of five rebounds. He also coolly dropped in four of six free throws to add to his total of 8 points.

The game gave the Ducks a new taste in their mouth – the taste of victory and judging how the crowd stormed out onto the court at the end of the game, it is something this team and its fans want more of. Humphrey felt the same way as the fans.

"It looked like we won a national championship," commented Humphry of the win. "This was a team effort and we appreciate the fans."

Humphrey was right about a team effort as there were also some very valuable contributions by Kamyron Brown, who sank a 3-pointer to give the Ducks an important 62-58 lead. Porter, in his usual ice-cold style sank two free throws to extend Oregon's lead to 65-60. Joevan Catron pulled in a critical rebound after Crittle missed a free throw that eventually led to Porter's free throws. LeKendric Longmire seemed to be everywhere and ended the game with 11 points and six rebounds.

"That time happened for a reason and now it is a relief to be over the hump," Catron spoke of Oregon's 14-game Pac-10 losing streak. "To fight through it shows the power of our team."

Kent was appreciative to the fans for their support particularly in the face of a long, disappointing losing streak.

"The crowd had so much energy and so much emotion today," observed Kent. "We took that and used it n the floor today and played with some real fire at the end."

Next week, the Ducks face Oregon State in the regular season finale. Ironically, Oregon State went 0-18 in conference play last season but this year they 13-13 for the season and 7-8 in Pac-10 play. If anyone should know what the Ducks have gone through this year it would be the Beavers and according to Catron a win over the Beavers might help propel the Ducks into the Pac-10 Tournament in March.

"We could be a team to be reckoned with in the Pac-10 tourney if we beat OSU," said Catron hopefully.

What happens against the Beavers won't be known until next week, but for now at least, the Ducks can enjoy the fact they have a win in conference play.

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