It was appropriate for those seniors to go out at home with a win. During their two years of play in that gym, the Oregon Ducks have gone 30-2.
"(Johnson and Helquist) have left a legacy for others to follow," Oregon Coach Ernie Kent said.
This game could be the last home contest for junior guard Luke Ridnour as well. There has been much speculation that he could leave after this season for the NBA. If this was his last home game, he gave Oregon fans something to remember. In a typical Ridnour effort, he was all over the court playing great defense and dishing the ball to open people all day.
In this contest, Oregon (20-7, 10-6) jumped on UCLA early and never let up. The game opened with back to back three pointers by Luke Jackson and James Davis. After Davis' three pointer, UCLA Coach Steve Lavin was charged with a technical foul. Ridnour made the following free throws and hit a three pointer on the next Oregon possession. Jackson hit a fading jumper next time down and Oregon led 13-0 with 17:28 to go in the first half.
"When it was a 13-0 shutout I thought Don Larsen was pitching (for Oregon)," Lavin said.
(PHOTO RIGHT)UCLA coach Steve squats on the sidelines during UCLA's 79-48 loss to Oregon, Saturday, March 1, 2003, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Thomas Boyd)
UCLA (7-18, 4-12) went nearly eight minutes before scoring a field goal, which came on a T.J. Cummings tip-in. At that point, Oregon led the Bruins by a score of 19-4.
The first half concluded with Oregon leading 38-21 but in reality, it wasn't even that close. UCLA had gone 6-27 on field goals in the first half, a testament to Oregon's solid defense.
"We played really tough defense," Brian Helquist said. "We also jumped out really quick which took a lot out of them."
Oregon opened the second half on an 11-2 run that was led by Luke Ridnour and Luke Jackson. The run took any of UCLA's remaining energy away and gave Oregon the second half momentum.
For the Ducks, it was important to stop UCLA's all-everything player Jason Kapono. Kapono has been a thorn in many teams' sides for his entire career but today, Oregon nullified him. The senior forward from Lakewood, California was held to only three first half field goal attempts in 16 minutes. He missed all three of those shots. In the second half Kapono finally hit a shot from the floor, a three pointer. He finished with only five points on 1-8 shooting.
"We really tried to limit (Kapono's) touches," Ridnour said. "He needs to touch the ball to get into a rhythm and score. The more you can (limit his touches), the tougher it is for him to score."
When Kapono wasn't scoring, no other Bruin picked up the scoring load. Only one UCLA player finished in double figures; Ray Young with 10 points. Dijon Thompson, T.J. Cummings and Ray Young were the only Bruins to make more than one field goal.
For the Ducks, Ridnour led the charge with 21 points and eight assists. Luke Jackson added 16 points and seven rebounds. James Davis hit four early three pointers to account for his 12 points. Davis also made great passes today, accounting for five of Oregon's assists. Andre Joseph showed that he didn't miss a beat after his one game suspension. Joseph had 10 points in 20 minutes.
(PHOTO LEFT) Oregon's Andre Joseph, left, shoots as UCLA's Ryan Walcott defends during the first half Saturday, March 1, 2003, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Thomas Boyd)
In their last home games as Ducks, Johnson and Helquist both played very well. Helquist was great on the defensive end and had great box outs. He finished with four points and four boards in 23 minutes. Johnson played the typical Robert Johnson game today. He was diving for balls, playing tough defense and being the workman he is. Johnson finished with seven points and six rebounds in only 14 minutes.
Johnson also did something he's never done before as a Duck. With little over three minutes left in the game, Luke Jackson found Robert Johnson wide open at the top of the key. Johnson looked at the hoop and pulled the trigger, nailing his first career three pointer and breaking into a huge smile.
"That was very much needed for me," Johnson said with a laugh. "I suggested the play earlier in the game and when (Coach Kent) called it, I was just feeling it."
UCLA will have two big match-ups next week at Pauley Pavilion in Westwood. First will be the Washington State Cougars on Thursday and then the University of Washington Huskies on Saturday. The Husky game will be big for the Bruins because the Huskies are ahead of them in the race for the eight-seed in the Pac-10 Tournament.
The Ducks will travel to Arizona to close out the season. Thursday's game will be at Arizona State on Fox Sports and Saturday's game will be at Arizona on CBS. Tonight though, the Oregon seniors are just going to bask in one more win at Mac Court.
"This probably won't hit me until tonight," Robert Johnson said. "It was very emotional, especially with my mom being there."
"Basketball was the result of a lot of things this afternoon," Kent said. "That (game) was about tapping into heart and spirit and winning for those two seniors."
Stats from www.goducks.com.