Comeback Kids

When no one else believed, they believed. When no one else thought they could pull it out, they knew they could pull it out.<BR><BR><I>(PHOTO LEFT) Players on the Oregon bench celebrate as the team scores the winning points against UCLA during the final minute of a semifinal game in the Pacific 10 Conference tournament in Los Angeles Friday, March 14, 2003. Oregon won 75-74. (AP Photo/Kim D. Johnson)

The University of Oregon Ducks trailed by as many as 11 points late in the second half but put together a frantic effort in the final three minutes to steal a win from the grasp of the UCLA Bruins 75-74 in the second round of the Pac-10 Tournament.

With 3:43 to go in the game, UCLA's Ryan Hollins stood at the line with the Bruins leading by 11 points. He made one of two free throws and the Bruins held a 71-59 lead. On the very next Oregon possession, after showing offensive patience, Luke Ridnour found Robert Johnson for a great inside hoop along with a UCLA foul. Johnson made his foul shot and the Ducks trailed 71-62 with 3:20 left.

"We had four and a half minutes left," Oregon guard James Davis told OSN. "We could see their faces that they were hooting and hollering and looking at the crowd. We knew they wouldn't come at us anymore so we became the aggressor and took it to them."

(PHOTO RIGHT) Oregon coach Ernie Kent celebrates a score against UCLA during the first half of a semifinal at the Pacific 10 tournament in Los Angeles, Friday, March 14, 2003. Oregon won 75-74. (AP Photo/Lucy Nicholson)

After playing a "trying not to lose" style of basketball for the last five minutes, UCLA tried to get their offense going again. They found Hollins inside for another hoop inside and he was fouled. UCLA's worst free throw shooter was on the line trying to put the Bruins back up 12. His free throw missed though and with 3:12 left the Ducks were down 11 points.

The Ducks flew back down the court and after fumbling a pass inside, Andre Joseph found a wide open James Davis in the corner who drilled a three-pointer cutting the UCLA lead to 73-65 with 3:03 left. On the ensuing inbound play, the Ducks started to apply heavy defensive pressure. A poor Bruin pass was picked off by Luke Ridnour who found Luke Jackson inside for two points. Oregon was down only six with 2:48 left.

On the next play, UCLA inbounded the ball to Dijon Thompson who was subsequently double-teamed by Luke Jackson and Andre Joseph. Under the pressure Thompson fell over and traveled, giving the ball back to the Ducks. Oregon missed their shot attempt but the tone was set defensively. The Ducks were going to bring heavy pressure.

After Ryan Walcott threw a misdirected alley-oop pass that fell into the hands of Luke Jackson, Luke Ridnour flew down the court and scored a basket that cut UCLA's lead to four points with 1:58 left.

Oregon cut UCLA's lead yet again when James Davis hit a huge three pointer with 1:15 left. UCLA led 73-72 and had not scored in two minutes. Down the floor went the Bruins. Ray Young, UCLA's point guard who had been hot all game missed a jumper but Dijon Thompson grabbed a rebound and was fouled, sending him to the line.

(PHOTO LEFT) Oregon's Ian Crosswhite, right, drives past UCLA's T.J. Cummings during the first half of a semifinal at the Pacific 10 tournament in Los Angeles, Friday, March 14, 2003. Oregon won 75-74. (AP Photo/Lucy Nicholson)

Thompson made one of two free throws with 40 seconds left giving UCLA a 74-72 lead. Oregon called timeout. In the huddle Coach Ernie Kent called the play for Ridnour to pull the trigger on a three-pointer.

"I wanted the dagger right there," Kent told OSN.

The dagger didn't come from Ridnour however; it came from Creswell, Oregon's Luke Jackson. Ridnour found himself open for a three-pointer with slightly over 24 seconds left. He fired but missed off of the back iron. Robert Johnson went high on the rebound and tipped it back out to Ridnour to set it up again. It only took a moment for him to find Luke Jackson at the top of the key who nailed the three pointer, putting Oregon in the lead 75-74.

"When we came out on the floor Hollins picked me up," Jackson told OSN. "On that second ball screen Hollins collapsed a little bit (onto Ridnour) and left me wide open."

UCLA still had a chance to win the game and they put the ball into the hands of Ray Young to do it. Young had 18 points in the first half and seemed to make every shot he took. The second half was not so kind to Young as Oregon tightened up their defense on him but he was still the man with the ball in crunch time.

Andre Joseph took the defensive assignment on Young and as the UCLA senior drove down the right side, Joseph was right with him. Young rose up on the right baseline with Joseph's hand in his face. His shot flew towards the rim but just missed its intended target, bouncing high off of the rim and into the air. Luke Jackson who just hit the clutch shot on the other end, in the words of the Bill Schonley, climbed the golden ladder to get to the ball. He tapped it away from trouble and it harmlessly bounced away as time expired. Oregon had survived another nail biter.

(PHOTO RIGHT) Oregon forward Luke Jackson shoots over UCLA guard Ryan Walcott during the second half of a semifinal at the Pacific 10 Tournament in Los Angeles Friday, March 14, 2003. Oregon won 75-74. (AP Photo/Kim D. Johnson)

"Our whole theme at halftime was to get ahead of (Young) and make him take an off balance shot," Oregon Assistant Coach Fred Litzenberger told OSN. "That's what we did on that last one."

"It just took heart and determination," James Davis said.

"(UCLA) wore us down but we've got so much character on this team, they found a way to win," Kent said.

Oregon came back in a game when they did not play their best basketball. The Ducks were outshot from the floor by the Bruins 50 percent to 41 percent. UCLA found their way to the free throw line for 26 attempts while Oregon only took nine free throws. Their hustle carried them through the tough spots though. They worked very hard on the boards winning the rebounding battle 34-29 and played great defense in the final six minutes of the game.

For the game, UCLA was led by Dijon Thompson's 23 points and eight rebounds in 40 minutes. Senior Ray Young went out with a bang scoring 21 points, 18 of them in the first half. T.J. Cummings was also very important for UCLA inside shooting 50 percent from the field and scoring 13 points.

(PHOTO LEFT) Oregon guard Luke Ridnour shoots over UCLA center Ryan Hollins during the second half of a semifinal at the Pacific 10 tournament in Los Angeles on Friday, March 14, 2003. Oregon won 75-74. (AP Photo/Kim D. Johnson)

Oregon spread the offensive load around tonight. Ridnour finished with 16 points, Davis with 15, Jackson with 13 and Ian Crosswhite with 10 points. Along with his 13 points, Luke Jackson had 10 rebounds giving Oregon their second double-double in as many games in the Pac-10 Tournament. Ridnour again spread the ball around well. He dropped nine of Oregon's 18 dimes. Robert Johnson also had a big game for the Ducks with nine points and eight boards.

Next up for Oregon will be the winner of tonight's USC vs. California game. The Ducks will face off with that team for the Pac-10 Tournament Championship on Saturday at 3:15pm.

"Fatigue will play a factor for both teams tomorrow," Jackson said. "Both teams will have to use the bench a lot. The team that can play smart basketball through the fatigue will win."

Preparation for the next game will start for tonight but just for a moment, Coach Litzenberger reflected on this game and season to this point.

"We have a great group of players that we love to be around every day because they are great guys," he said. "We have great coaches that have a lot of experience. When you put those two together, great things happen for you. Great things are happening for Oregon Basketball."

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