Thursday, March 18, 1999

Oregon 77, Texas Christian 68




BY MIKE DRAGO
Associated Press Writer

        FORT WORTH, Texas — A little more than a month ago, the Oregon Ducks looked dead. Now they're in the NIT's Final Four.

        A.D. Smith scored 18 points, Terik Brown added 17 and both had key 3-pointers in the deciding stretch as Oregon advanced to the NIT semifinals with a 77-68 victory over Texas Christian on Wednesday night.

        The Ducks (19-11), who rallied late in the season just to make the NIT, will play either California or Colorado State next Tuesday in New York. Oregon advanced to New York once before, in 1975, but lost in the semifinals.

        “There were a lot of things we accomplished to get there. It's a big improvement for us to have a chance to play in the Garden,” Brown said. “Now we've got this dream come true.”

        Lee Nailon had 27 points and 14 rebounds for the Horned Frogs (21-11), who put aside a disappointing finish to their regular season to make their first NIT quarterfinal appearance since 1983.

        Oregon trailed 40-37 at halftime but came out blazing in the second half, outscoring the Frogs 11-4 to take a 48-44 lead with just over 16 minutes left. Brown had three baskets, including a 3-pointer, during the run.

        Nailon, meanwhile, carried the Frogs, scoring their first 11 points of the half. No other TCU player scored until Marquise Gainous' jumper with 13:37 left put the Frogs ahead 53-52.

        “I told our team at halftime taht we were down a couple of points but there was still 20 minutes of basketball left and 20 minutes standing in the way of one of the teams going to New York,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said.

        “I said, "The team that was able to out-tough the other the last 20 minutes would come out on top. I thought we out-toughed them down the stretch.”

        The teams traded leads several more times before the Ducks' decisive run began on Smith's 3-pointer that put Oregon ahead for good 64-63 with five minutes left. Darrius Wright followed with a 3-pointer and Brown added another as the Ducks went ahead 70-63 with 3:02 left.

        “I had not shot 3-pointers that well during the regular season,” said Smith, who hit three on Wednesday. “In fact, I hadn't shot that many of them. But I hit a couple early during tournament play and I have felt more comfortable from 3-point range since then.”

        TCU managed only two more baskets — a jumper by Nailon and a 3-pointer by Vladimir Jaksic — as Oregon took control of the boards in the final minutes.

        “It's hard to look good when your shots aren't falling, and ours weren't going down,” TCU coach Billy Tubbs said. “And I thought we started to panic a little bit in that area by putting up some awfully quick shots.”

        The Ducks outrebounded TCU 17-9 in the last 11:40, taking away the second-chance advantage the Frogs enjoyed in the first half.

        “They kicked us pretty good on the boards in the first half (27-19), and we knew we were going to have to do something about it,” Smith said.

        Alex Scales added 15 points and Wright 10 for the Ducks. Jaksic was the only other TCU player in double figures with 12 points. Gainous, who scored 30 points against Nebraska on Monday, managed only nine against Oregon.

        Oregon's postseason success follows an up-and-down regular season that didn't hold much promise when the Ducks followed an 8-1 start by losing eight out of their next nine. During that stretch, two players quit the team and Oregon's postseason chances appeared to have faded.

        The Ducks regrouped to win six of their last eight, finishing in a fifth-place tie with California in the Pac-10. Oregon then beat Georgia Tech 67-64 in a first-round game and Wyoming 93-72 on Monday night.

        TCU looked like the stronger team early, starting with a 5-0 run and leading 29-22 after Fowler's basket with 7:58 remaining. The Ducks responded with an 11-2 run, fueled by Alex Scales' two baskets and a steal that led to Frederick Jones' fast-break slam with 3:35 to go.

        The Frogs responded with a 9-0 run, including five points from Ryan Carroll, to go back up 40-33 in the final two minutes. Smith hit two free throws and Wright scored off a blown TCU pass in the final seconds to narrow the halftime deficit.

        “Even though we had the lead at the half, I didn't feel like we were playing that well,” Tubbs said. “We had missed a lot of easy opportunities.”

        Scales had 12 points in the first half for Oregon, while Nailon led the Frogs with 12 points and nine rebounds.

        OREGON (19-11) — Smith 5-12 5-6 18, Scales 7-19 1-3 15, Carson 3-5 0-0 6, Wright 4-9 0-0 10, Brown 5-12 4-5 17, Harker 0-1 0-0 0, Rosemond 1-3 0-1 3, Jones 3-8 0-0 6, Hartenstein 0-1 2-4 2. Totals 28-70 12-19 77.

        TCU (21-11) — Gainous 3-10 3-6 9, Nailon 12-26 3-3 27, Fowler 3-9 0-0 6, Jaksic 4-10 0-0 12, Carroll 3-12 0-1 8, McTyer 0-0 0-0 0, Long 3-6 0-0 6. Totals 28-73 6-10 68.

        Halftime—TCU 40, Oregon 37. 3-Point goals—Oregon 9-25 (Smith 3-4, Brown 3-8, Wright 2-3, Rosemond 1-3, Jones 0-3, Scales 0-4), TCU 6-23 (Jaksic 4-8, Carroll 2-8, Nailon 0-3, Fowler 0-4). Fouled out—None. Rebounds—Oregon 45 (Smith 12), TCU 49 (Nailon 14). Assists—Oregon 11 (Scales 4), TCU 19 (Fowler 7). Total fouls—Oregon 13, TCU 18. A—6,036.

       



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