Cougars Test Ducks

In their first game without forward Luke Jackson, the No. 21 Oregon Ducks learned how tough it is without their star player. Oregon beat the Washington State Cougars 76-66 but it was a battle the entire way.

The Ducks (14-4, 4-3) showed that their forward from Creswell, Oregon is possibly a bigger component to their team than earlier realized. Without Jackson tonight, the Ducks struggled both rebounding and shooting the ball, but got big efforts out of other players.

Andre Joseph started in place of Luke Jackson and contributed a huge game. Joseph not only scored 11 points but played great defense, notching up a career high five steals. After finishing the first half scoreless, Joseph stepped it up on the offensive end slashing and scoring in the second period.

Shooting guard James Davis also picked up some of the slack, scoring 13 points but perhaps more importantly playing great defense. Many times when the Ducks would be fronting a post player, Davis would be right there with great help side defense, stopping WSU from getting an easy hoop. Davis' great defense allowed him to swipe a career high four steals tonight.

If Davis and Joseph were the drummer and guitar players in this band tonight, guard Luke Ridnour was definitely the lead singer. After a rough first half in which he scored only four points, Ridnour lit it up in the second half, scoring 24 of his 28 in the period. Those 28 points tie his career high. Not only was Ridnour scoring but his great penetration was creating opportunities for others which gave him seven assists.

"You don't realize how many little things (Luke Jackson) does until you play without him," Ridnour said. "We miss him and we are going to continue to miss him. It's hard to replace someone like Luke Jackson. Other people are going to have to step up like they did tonight."

(PHOTO RIGHT) Oregon's Andre Joseph slams two of his 11 points over Cedrick Hughey of Washington State during Oregon's 76-66 win Saturday, Jan. 25, 2003 at McArthur Court in Eugene, Ore.. Joseph started his first game in place of injured starter Luke Jackson, who injured his hand Thursday night in a game against Washington. (AP Photo/Brian Davies)

Ridnour was all over the place with his offense and defense. If a player can take over a game, Ridnour certainly did it tonight. It could almost be compared to those games when Bernard King was able to just score at will. Ridnour did what he wanted to in the second half, going 7-11 from the field and 9-9 from the free throw line.

Washington State (5-12, 0-8) wound up on the losing end tonight but played a very solid game. The team that has now lost 36 straight games to ranked teams came to Eugene missing four key players. Milton Riley, Shami Gill, Ezenwa Ukeagu and star guard Marcus Moore were all out with injuries. Playing without these players, the Cougars gave a great effort, holding the lead at the half 32-31 and giving the Ducks a real test.

"We understand that we are shorthanded, but our kids went out and competed really well," Washington State Coach Paul Graham said.

The Cougars were right in the ballgame until Luke Ridnour's drive to the hoop with 7:02 to go in the game. Ridnour was fouled on the play, converted the free throw and gave the Ducks a 54-51 lead. Behind Ridnour the Ducks went on an 11-0 run during a two and a half-minute stretch. Ridnour scored nine of Oregon's 11 in that run. Although WSU continued to play hard, the result was sealed at that point.

If there was one place the Ducks were lacking tonight, it was the energy department. Thursday's tough play against Washington showed itself tonight in the amount of energy that the Ducks had.

"We didn't come out with as much energy as we did against the Huskies," Oregon guard James Davis said. "You're going to have games like that and I'm just glad we were able to come out with the win."

The lack of energy contributed to Oregon losing the battle of the boards again tonight. Washington State out rebounded the Ducks 33-28. Robert Johnson grabbed six rebounds for the Ducks but nobody else had over four. Other than Johnson, Oregon's four other big men (Brian Helquist, Matt Short, Ian Crosswhite and Jay Anderson) grabbed seven rebounds total.

This was a different kind of win for the Ducks, something Oregon Coach Ernie Kent was pleased with. "We did it with defense in the second half, 19-19 at the free throw line and we did it without Luke Jackson," Kent said. "Certainly it was winning a game a different way for us."

Next week, Washington State will make the trip to Seattle to face the University of Washington. Both teams will be looking to get back into the win column after being swept on their trips to the state of Oregon. That game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in Seattle.

Oregon's next games will have to be undertaken without Luke Jackson again. "In terms of Luke Jackson, he's going to be week by week rather than day by day," Kent said. "We didn't have him tonight and we won't have him next week. We'll have to see where he is coming out of the LA trip."

Those next two games will be very important for the Ducks. Last year, this very same trip to Los Angeles secured the Pac10 Championship for them. This year, Oregon is looking to keep a four game win streak alive. Thursday's game at UCLA will be at 7:30 p.m. on Fox Sports.

Shortly after the game, James Davis was already mentally preparing for next week's road trip. "We have to go down there with the mindset to (win) both," Davis said. "This isn't some sort of vacation to go down there and eat and stay in nice hotels. This is business and we need to go down there with that mindset."

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