Sunday, March 17, 2002

Oregon downs Demon Deacons

Midwest Region

The Associated Press

        SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Just how tremendous is Oregon's high-scoring trio of Luke Jackson, Luke Ridnour and Frederick Jones?

        Good enough to beat hot-shooting Wake Forest in what seemed like a game of 5-on-3 — and maybe good enough to go a whole lot further in the NCAA Tournament.

        Jackson matched his career high with 29 points, Ridnour scored a career-high 28, and Jones had 24 as second-seeded Oregon survived a strong challenge from the Demon Deacons, winning 92-87 Saturday to advance to the Midwest Regional semifinals.

        Jackson, Jones and Ridnour, who carried Oregon (25-8) to its first Pac-10 Conference title since 1939, accounted for all but 11 of the Ducks' points as they held off the Demon Deacons (21-13) in a thrilling, end-to-end game with little defense but plenty of fireworks.

        “We all expect this out of each one of us,” Jones said afterward while looking at his two teammates. “We have a lot of confidence in each other. We don't think it's anything new.”

        Oregon's three stars scored all of the Ducks' points in the second half until three free throws by their teammates in the final 17 seconds.

        “It was a great rhythm to the game,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. “That's the exact way we've played in 30 or 31 other games — running up and down the floor. Those three guys have stepped up the entire year.”

        The Ducks, just two days removed from their first tournament victory since 1960, advanced to next week's regional final in Madison, Wis., to face the winner of Texas' meeting with Mississippi State in Dallas today.

        Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser, who said his team lost one of its more satisfying games, compared Oregon's trio to the high-flying NBA team that usually holds court at Sacramento's Arco Arena, the Kings.

        “Those three kids — we couldn't find a way to even slow them down, much less stop them,” Prosser said. “Today, they probably could have played for the Kings.”

        Wake Forest shot 55 percent for most of the game and made 11-of-19 3-pointers, but its chances evaporated when Craig Dawson, who scored 20 points, left with a dislocated shoulder with 7:45 to play.

        Fans in the decidedly pro-Ducks crowd chanted, “Sweet Sixteen!” in the final seconds. During the first half of Indiana's game against UNC Wilmington, Jackson and Ridnour climbed into the stands to hug family members and shake hands with fans.

        They had plenty to cheer about: Each member of the Ducks' trio was spectacular in his own way.

        Jackson made all 10 of his free throws, including four in the final seconds, while Jones had six rebounds, five assists and two roof-raising dunks. But most thought the best game was played by Ridnour, who made 7-of-11 3-pointers — one short of a school record — and ran the team efficiently from the point.

        “He's like Leonard Bernstein out there conducting a symphony,” Prosser said. “He was terrific.”

        Dawson's outside shot opened up the paint for Darius Songaila, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Antwan Scott. But Dawson watched the final minutes on the bench, wearing his warmups and a sling, after a collision with Jones.

        “With Craig leaving, it cost us an outside shooter,” guard Taron Downey said. “It changed the way the game was going.”

        Still, first-year coach Prosser's team got within a few possessions of its first trip to a regional semifinal since Tim Duncan's junior season.

        After Wake Forest led for more than 20 minutes, Oregon tied it at 78-78 on Jones' thunderous rebound dunk with 5:58 left. After Ridnour hit a 3-pointer with 3:32 left, neither team got another field goal until the final second.

        “I want to go home and watch the game,” Kent said. “What a great, entertaining game. I hope people will see that and want to play for us. We let them go and watch them grow.”

        Appropriately for a meeting between two of the NCAA's eight highest-scoring teams, the game began at a thrilling offensive pace it never lost. Wake Forest shot better than 63 percent for much of the first half, while Ridnour and Jackson fired away from outside to keep Oregon close.

        But the Demon Deacons got only sporadic playing time from second-leading scorer Josh Howard, who has a sprained ankle. In addition, Broderick Hicks missed most of the first half after running face-first into Oregon center Chris Christoffersen's elbow in the opening minutes.

        “I think in certain games, you run out of time,” Prosser said. “Today, to a degree, we ran out of guys.”

        WAKE FOREST (21-13) — Songaila 8-16 2-3 19, Scott 6-11 1-2 13, Hicks 0-5 2-2 2, Murray 1-2 0-0 2, Dawson 7-11 1-1 20, Downey 4-6 0-0 11, Howard 1-3 0-0 3, Levy 4-5 1-2 10, Danelius 2-5 3-5 7. Totals 33-64 10-15 87.

        OREGON (25-8) — Johnson 0-3 2-4 2, Jackson 8-14 10-10 29, Christoffersen 3-3 1-1 7, Ridnour 9-15 3-3 28, Jones 9-20 4-4 24, Davis 0-1 0-0 0, Lever 0-4 2-2 2, Helquist 0-0 0-0 0, Michaelis 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-61 22-24 92.

        Halftime—Wake Forest 48, Oregon 46. 3-Point Goals—Wake Forest 11-19 (Dawson 5-8, Downey 3-5, Howard 1-1, Levy 1-1, Songaila 1-1, Hicks 0-3), Oregon 12-29 (Ridnour 7-11, Jackson 3-6, Jones 2-8, Davis 0-1, Lever 0-3). Fouled out—None. Rebounds—Wake Forest 33 (Songaila 13), Oregon 34 (Jackson 8). Assists—Wake Forest 15 (Downey 7), Oregon 14 (Jackson, Jones 5). Total fouls—Wake Forest 19, Oregon 16. A—NA.


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