Ridnour Lifts Ducks Past Sun Devils

March 13, 2003

By JOHN NADEL
AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES - The Oregon Ducks figured they needed to win their first-round game in the Pac-10 Conference tournament to guarantee them a berth in the NCAA tournament.

They did so, albeit barely.

The Ducks blew a five-point lead down the stretch, but Luke Ridnour bailed them out by making a driving layup with 3.3 seconds remaining for an 83-82 victory over the Sun Devils on Thursday night.

Ridnour, a junior, called it the biggest shot of his career.

'We knew we had to come and get one win,' he said. 'It was a battle. ASU is a great team.'

Ike Diogu's three-point play with 12.1 seconds left gave the Sun Devils a one-point lead, but Ridnour drove the length of the court for the game-winning basket.

'I've seen him make that shot so many times - turn the corner and hit that floater,' Oregon's Luke Jackson said. 'It was just a great shot.

'This win pretty much guaranteed us a spot in the NCAA tournament. We played sloppy and had some turnovers at the end and we're fortunate to come out with the win.'

After Ridnour scored, ASU's Curtis Millage tried a desperation shot from about 60 feet, but it didn't come close as time expired. The Sun Devils were out of timeouts.

'We're just happy to get the win,' Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. 'We wanted to focus on getting this done, not just for NCAA purposes.'

Regarding the last play, Kent said: 'We were running a high post ball screen. That's the play we wanted.

'Ridnour knew like I knew he was going to go score the basketball.'

Ridnour had 23 points and six assists, and Jackson added 17 points and eight rebounds for the fifth-seeded Ducks (21-9), who face eighth-seeded UCLA in Friday night's opening semifinal game at Staples Center.

The Bruins (10-18) stunned top-ranked Arizona 96-89 in overtime in the tournament opener. The Ducks swept UCLA this season, winning 96-91 in overtime in Los Angeles and 79-48 in Oregon.

James Davis added 16 points and Robert Johnson had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Oregon.

Diogu matched his career best with 27 points and pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds for fourth-seeded ASU (19-11). Millage added 25 points, and Tommy Smith and Shawn Redhage scored 11 each for the Sun Devils.

'Tough way to go out,' ASU coach Rob Evans said. 'We did everything we needed to do in the ballgame late except get a stop. It was just one of those things. Luke made a good play on it. Give him credit.'

The Ducks beat the Sun Devils seven days after losing a 91-77 decision at ASU. Despite the loss, Evans said he fully expects his team to be invited to the NCAA tournament.

'If they take four, they should take us, the way I see it. We finished fourth in this league,' he said. 'We've been playing good basketball.'

Jackson and Ridnour made 3-pointers to give Oregon an eight-point lead with 2� minutes remaining, and the Ducks still appeared safely on top after two free throws by Davis made it 81-76 with 24.5 seconds left.

Millage missed a 3-pointer, but the Sun Devils rebounded and got the ball back to him. He connected from long range to make it 81-79 with 14.6 seconds to play.

Oregon committed a turnover trying to inbound, and the Sun Devils got the ball to Diogu, who scored from underneath and was fouled. He made the free throw to put ASU ahead 82-81.

'Diogu is a load down there for anybody in the country,' Kent said.

Ridnour then calmly dribbled upcourt and never stopped, going straight to the basket for the winning shot.

'We're pretty disappointed because we let this one get away from us,' Diogu said. 'There's still more basketball to be played.'

Two 3-pointers by Ridnour, and one each by Andre Joseph and Davis helped Oregon outscore ASU 12-5 to start the second half, giving the Ducks a 52-46 lead. The Sun Devils scored the next six points - four by Redhage - to tie it with 13:48 to play.

Oregon led by eight points three times after that but needed Ridnour's big play to win.

Diogu and Ridnour have each reached double figures in the 30 games their teams have played this season. The only other Pac-10 player to accomplish such a feat is California's Joe Shipp.

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