MADISON, Wis. – Each time Freddie Jones hits the shot, the stakes get
The first time he hit it, it was for the Pacific-10 Conference title. The second time it was for the outright championship.
This time it was for the Elite Eight.
The shot is a running floater on a drive for the final score of the game.
With a roll of Jones’ finger on Friday night, the senior sealed Oregon’s 72-70 win over Texas in the Sweet 16 in Madison, Wis., sparking memories of Jones’ game-winners at USC and UCLA, two shots that sewed up the Ducks’conference title.
Oregon will advance to play the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the Elite
Eight on Sunday.
Jones’ shot did not typify his game. His ending basket gave him only four points for the night.
“If I had thought about my game while I was taking that shot, I would
have missed it,” Jones said. “I played terrible. I feel like I didn’t hold up my end of the stick today.”
But where Jones faltered, Luke Jackson and Luke Ridnour picked up the
slack. The sophomore pair combined for 45 points, and Robert Johnson added 10. Texas center James Thomas led the Longhorns with 15 points.
Jones’ big basket came with 2.8 seconds left in the game, and capped a
heart-pounding final minute. With 58 seconds left, Ridnour hit a long jump shot that made the score 70-68 and broke the second tie of the game. On Texas’ next possession, Jones stripped T.J. Ford and Oregon got the ball back with less than 30 seconds left.
After a time out, Duck guard James Davis was fouled but missed the front end of a one-and-one. On the other end, Thomas was fouled as he made a lay-in with 23.2 seconds left. He missed the ensuing free throw, which enabled Oregon to hold the ball for the last shot. Jones dribbled the clock down before driving on Fredie Williams to hit the game winner.
“I don’t know if anybody in the country is going to stop him in that
situation,” Oregon center Chris Christoffersen said.
The game wasn’t over after Jones’ big shot. Texas called a time-out and
set up a play for freshman point guard Ford, who Jones calls “one of the quickest players in the country.” Ford streaked down the court in a dead sprint, but missed his running jumper as time expired and the Oregon bench exploded.
“We had imagined (Ford) might take the ball,” Jackson said. “Fortunately we forced him to take a tough shot.”
Ford was stymied by the Ducks’ defense all game long. The freshman
averages 10.9 points and 8.9 assists per game, but Oregon held him to only eight points and five assists on Friday night, as well as forcing him into four turnovers.
But despite Ford’s struggles and the struggles of other prolific Texas
scorers, the Longhorns stormed back and almost upset the Ducks, who struggled in the second half. Oregon led all game until a 13-0 Texas run made score 51-51 with 12:09 left. Texas never led, but tied the game for the second time on Thomas’ lay-in with 23.2 seconds left.
Oregon had a 13-point halftime lead on the strength of 9-0 run midway
through the first frame and a 10-4 run to end the half. That run was
punctuated by a Jackson three-pointer from the corner with less than one second left in the period.
“Hitting a shot like that going into halftime gave us a lot of momentum,” Jackson said.
In the end, it all came back to Jones’ shot, like a carbon-copy of the
Jones game-winners of the past.
And if he hits that shot again, the stakes will be even higher. Final
Oregon and Kansas will square off at 1:40 p.m. Central Time on Sunday.
Email sports reporter Peter Hockaday at email@example.com