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Archive for Thursday, March 14, 2002

Oregon 81, Montana 62

March 14, 2002

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— For the first time since 1960, Oregon is sticking around for a second game in the NCAA tournament.

Luke Ridnour and Luke Jackson scored 18 points apiece as the second-seeded Ducks overcame a slow start to beat Montana 81-62 on Thursday in the Midwest Regional.

Robert Johnson added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Ducks (24-8), who pushed their resurgent season to its highest point by advancing to face seventh-seeded Wake Forest on Saturday.

The Pac-10 Conference champions weren't terribly impressive, with streaky shooting and spells of indifferent defense that had coach Ernie Kent shaking his head. But the Ducks pulled away from the 15th-seeded Grizzlies with two prolonged runs in the second half.

Frederick Jones, the Ducks' all-conference leading scorer, had 16 points while struggling with foul trouble. Jones took just seven shots, but he punctuated the Ducks' victory with a high-flying dunk with four seconds left.

Ryan Slider had 12 points for 15th-seeded Montana (16-15), which earned its first NCAA trip since 1997 by unexpectedly winning the Big Sky Conference tournament. Dan Trammel and Brent Cummings added 10 points apiece for the Grizzlies, who made 16 turnovers and shot less than 38 percent.

The Grizzlies' fans and pep band had a great time at Arco, taking particular pleasure in taunting Johnson for his poor free-throw shooting, but their team simply couldn't stay with the Ducks in a quest for the school's first tournament victory since 1975.

Oregon's years of mediocrity are slowly being erased by Kent, a proud alumnus who has led the Ducks to two tournament berths in three seasons. This winter, the Ducks claimed their first outright conference title since 1939 _ the same year Oregon won the first NCAA tournament.

Johnson, who does most of the Ducks' dirty work on defense and the boards, was their primary offensive target for much of the game.

Montana's perimeter defenders did a decent job against Jones, but Ridnour - the Ducks' other all-conference star - found the seams for two of Oregon's six 3-pointers, and Johnson controlled the paint, making 5-of-6 shots.

Montana trailed by just one point late in the first half before Oregon made a 15-6 run. The Ducks' lead dropped to seven points early in the second half, but they pulled away consistently for the rest of the game.

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