Saturday, March 23, 2002

Ducks hook Horns

Oregon 72, Texas 70

Associated Press Writer

        MADISON, Wis. — For more than 39 minutes, Freddie Jones was an afterthought in Oregon's offense.

        With a spot in the final eight on the line Friday night, the senior guard wanted the ball in his hands.

        Jones' layup with 2.8 seconds left lifted the second-seeded Ducks to a 72-70 victory over the Longhorns, who had trailed by as many as 13 points in the Midwest Regional semifinal.

        Until the final sequence, Jones had just two points — 16 below his average. But dribbling the ball just inside halfcourt as time wound down, he waited until there was space in the lane before driving for the winning shot, his second bucket of the game.

        Texas freshman guard T.J. Ford's running jumper bounced off the rim at the buzzer as time expired.

        “My overall game was terrible,” Jones said. “Coming down the stretch I knew that we were going to need a play, and I was happy that I was in a position to try to redeem myself.”

        The Ducks (26-8), who hadn't won three games in the same NCAA tournament since capturing the 1939 title, will meet the winner of the game between Illinois and Kansas for a Final Four berth.

        Oregon had to weather a series of rallies by the sixth-seeded Longhorns. Still, the Lukes — as in Luke Jackson and Luke Ridnour — always seemed to have an answer.

        Jackson led the Ducks with 25 points, and Ridnour added 20, carrying the team for stretches. They scored nine of Oregon's final 11 points.

        “They've been doing that all year long. They've made big play after big play in every single game,” Jones said. “They have the confidence to take the big shot and they did a great job of keeping us close.”

        And then Jones, who missed the only shot he took in the first half, made the Lukes' hard work pay off.

        It wasn't the first time Jones pulled off late heroics for the Ducks this season. He made a shot with 13 seconds left to beat UCLA and another with a second left for a win over Southern Cal that clinched Oregon's first share of the Pac-10 conference title in 57 years.

        “How many times has he done that?” Oregon center Chris Christoffersen said. “We're used to it.”

        Texas (22-12) looked like it might get blown out at times in the first half and was down 41-28 at halftime.

        But the Longhorns used a 13-0 run — highlighted by Brian Boddicker's three 3-pointers — to pull even at 51 with about 12 minutes to play.

        That sent the game into a back-and-forth struggle that lasted until the final seconds.

        James Thomas led Texas with 15 points, including an inside basket that tied the game at 70 with 23.2 seconds left. He was fouled on the shot but failed to convert the three-point play that would have given Texas its first lead. Boddicker scored 13.

        Ford, playing with series of injuries that include an ankle sprain and a tender groin, had eight points, five assists and four turnovers. He was averaging a nation-leading 8.4 assists.

        “There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to come back,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “The tough thing is how sudden it ends for you at this time of the year.”

        Texas opened the game 0-for-6 from the field and committed 12 first-half turnovers.

        Texas cut its deficit to 33-28 with about 2 minutes left before the Ducks went on an 8-0 run to end the half. It began with Ridnour's 3-pointer and ended with Jackson's 3-pointer just before the buzzer for that 13-point advantage.


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