Ducks Fumble It Away

Ducks Fumble It Away

There is a reason, normally, why big guys are centers and power forwards and little guys are point guards. Today, Oregon demonstrated this very well when time after time Oregon big men threw the ball away and failed to catch passes inside which led to another second half debacle.<br><br><i>(LEFT) Arizona's Hassan Adams (21) blocks the shot by Oregon's Luke Ridnour (13) under the basket in the second half in McKale Center in Tucson, on Saturday. Arizona won 88-80. (AP Photo/John Miller)</i>

The No. 1 Arizona Wildcats (25-2, 17-1) started out slow today but kept at it and beat the Oregon Ducks 88-80 in Tucson. Jason Gardner typified the Arizona game today as he started out with only six points in the first half. In the second half he scored 21 and put the Ducks away.

Oregon (20-9, 10-8) battled all day long, holding leads and fighting back when the Wildcats would get a lead of their own. Luke Ridnour carried the Ducks at times and kept them in the game with clutch shots and great passes. Other Duck players gave nice efforts but Ridnour was the catalyst to Oregon's offense today; an offense that almost pulled out an upset against the best team in the nation.

"We did a great job against the number one team in the country on this floor," Oregon Coach Ernie Kent told OSN.

(PHOTO RIGHT) Arizona's Luke Walton (4) and Oregon's Robert Johnson (3) battle for control of a loose ball in the first half in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday, March 8, 2003. (AP Photo/John Miller)

In the first half, Oregon held leads by as many as seven points. It went back and forth but at halftime the Ducks led 38-35. Neither team really controlled the momentum at that point; it was a hard fought first half.

At the 7:46 mark in the first half, Luke Ridnour broke Ronnie Lee's single season assist record of 184 with a great dish to Robert Johnson inside. Ridnour now owns the number one and number three spots in that category.

The second half started out much like the second half against Arizona State did. The Wildcats jumped out to a 45-40 lead with Gardner leading the way. Oregon fought back but Arizona continued to control the game with their physical play.

Arizona's physical play marked the second game in a row when Oregon has been hampered by officiating. Against Arizona State, two tough charging calls on Luke Ridnour marked a turning point in the second half. Today, it was numerous no-calls against the Wildcats that hurt the Ducks.

"They beat the crap out of Ridnour out there," Kent said. "This was the worst I've ever seen (the officiating) down here. The officiating was horrible in this game. It was flat out horrible. It was a bad game on (the officials's) part."

(PHOTO LEFT) Oregon's Luke Ridnour (13) and Arizona's Luke Walton (4) scramble for a loose ball in the second half in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, March 8, 2003. Arizona won, 88-80. (AP Photo/John Miller)

After the Wildcats took the game over they were able to coast to a victory behind Gardner and Salim Stoudamire. Both players were key down the stretch in keeping the Ducks from getting anywhere close to back in the game.

The Ducks were hampered by big men that could not catch the ball or throw accurate passes inside. Repeatedly Oregon big guys would fumble passes, which would create Arizona points at the other end. The bigs would also throw passes that would find Arizona's Gardner, Stoudamire, Channing Frye and Luke Walton more than Oregon guards. Many of the Arizona points today came off of turnovers caused by these plays. The Ducks finished with 20 turnovers while the Cats had only 10.

Arizona proved why it is number one though, showing poise and strength through the entire game. When things weren't going right they held true to their course and were able to make shots and play solid defense just when it was most needed.

The Wildcats were led by Gardner and his 27 points in 37 minutes. Salim Stoudamire had 19 points although he found himself in foul trouble. Channing Frye added 13 points and eight rebounds for Arizona.

(PHOTO RIGHT) Oregon's Luke Jacson (33) can't escape the defense of Arizona's Jason Gardner (4) and Chris Rodgers during the first half in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday, March 8, 2003. (AP Photo/John Miller)

Oregon wound up with four players in double figures in today's loss. Luke Ridnour scored 26 points, had seven assists and six rebounds in 38 minutes. Luke Jackson garnered another double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds. James Davis and Ian Crosswhite scored 11 and 10 points respectively.

The Ducks actually outrebounded the Wildcats 40-37 with Jackson and Ridnour leading the way. Oregon big men only accounted for 15 rebounds while Arizona's wound up with 30 of the team's 37 boards.

Next up for both the Ducks and Wildcats will be the Pac-10 Tournament in the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Ducks will face Arizona State while the Wildcats will probably find USC in their first round game. "Now we need to go into the tournament and get the same effort," Kent said. "If we can get through ASU on a neutral court, then we'll get Arizona on a neutral court where anything can happen."

Stats from www.goducks.com.

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