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Oregon 81, Montana 62

March 14, 2002 at 8:28 PM   |   Comments

SACRAMENTO, March 14 (UPI) -- The second-seeded Oregon Ducks won their first NCAA Tournament game since 1960 Thursday, pulling away in the second half for an 81-62 victory over No. 15 Montana in the Midwest Region.

Current Oregon coach Ernie Kent was 5 years old when the Ducks last won an NCAA tournament game. Since then, Oregon has made only four appearances. Its most recent trip to the tournament resulted in a 72-71, overtime setback to Seton Hall two years ago.

Luke Ridnour and Luke Jackson scored 18 points apiece for the Pac-10 Conference regular-season champions, who appeared jittery early against the Grizzlies and managed a modest 34-26 lead at the intermission.

Victor Venters' layup pulled Montana within 49-42 with 13:13 remaining, but the Ducks (24-8) wore down the outmanned Grizzlies (16-15) in the second half with their superior talent and depth.

Although Oregon placed four players in double figures, shot 52 percent from the field and committed only nine turnovers, Kent was not satisfied with the Ducks' effort.

"We know that we did not play a good basketball game," Kent said. "Part of that is first-game jitters. I know the guys are looking forward to bouncing back with just a much sharper effort."

The Ducks will take on seventh-seeded Wake Forest in the second round Saturday. The Demon Deacons advanced with an 83-74 victory over Pepperdine.

"The biggest thing is we got a win," Ridnour said. "We know we have to play better next game."

Jackson's three-pointer ignited a 12-2 run that put the contest out of reach. Oregon opened a 61-44 cushion on Mark Michaelis' free throw with 9:42 remaining. Montana got no closer than 12 thereafter.

Frederick Jones added 16 points for the Ducks and capped the scoring with a flying dunk with 5.5 seconds remaining. Robert Johnson contributed 15.

"We still came out and played real hard on defense," Ridnour said. "Our shots weren't falling in the first half but we still came out hard and hustled on defense."

The patient Grizzlies prevented Oregon from effectively running its transition game by dictating the tempo. The Ducks lead the Pac-10 in scoring and have registered 90 or more points 15 this season.

"The kids responded," Montana coach Don Holst said. "They showed some poise and toughness."

But Oregon pounded the ball inside, getting to the foul line 40 times, compared with just 15 free throws for Montana. The Ducks did not take full advantage of their opportunities, making only 27 of their free throws.

"What killed us was the free throws -- 40-to-15 -- because we had more attempts from the field," Holst said.

Ryan Slider scored 12 points for the Grizzlies, who were making their first tournament appearance since 1997. Montana won its only tournament game in 1975.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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