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Kansas 104, Oregon 86

  |   March 24, 2002 at 8:07 PM
MADISON, Wis., March 24 (UPI) -- Nick Collison and Drew Gooden provided dominating inside strength during the second half Sunday that carried the Kansas Jayhawks into the Final Four with a 104-86 victory over the Oregon Ducks.

Collison and Gooden scored, altered shots and gave Kansas the opportunity for one second-chance basket after another with their rebounding skills. They provided eight points in a 14-2 run inside the seven-minute mark that ended Oregon's hopes.

Kansas joined fellow Big 12 Conference member Oklahoma in the Final Four after that league had not had put a team in the national semifinals for the first seven years of its existance. Kansas will meet Maryland in the second of next Saturday's two national semifinal games in Atlanta.

The Jayhawks overwhelmed the Ducks on the backboards, 61-31, and Kansas grabbed almost every meaningful rebound during the second half. Collison scored 25 points and had 15 rebounds, Keith Langford had 20 points and Gooden produced 18 points and an astonishing 20 rebounds as Kansas reached the Final Four for the first time in nine years.

"We thought the backboards were a big key for us," said Kansas Coach Roy Williams. "We were mobile inside. When they (Oregon) went small, I didn't want to go small to match them. I wanted to keep our big guys in and it worked for us."

This marks the first time the Jayhawks (33-3) have reached the Final Four as a top seed under Williams after failing to do so on four occasions.

"I feel great," Williams said. "It's a happy, happy time, to say the least. It's a great feeling for these kids. They carried me long for the ride. I appreciate that."

"I think Oregon had a lot of respect for our shooters," Collison said. "So they didn't double down on us. We missed a few shots down there, but we made quite a few."

Kansas threatened to run away with the game early, but a 12-point Oregon run late in the first half tied the contest at 40-40. Collison then scored six points in an 8-2 surge to end the half, leaving the Jayhawks with a six-point cushion at the break.

Kansas again dominated early in the second half with Kirk Hinrich making two free throws and a driving layup that finished off a 15-5 run and gave the Jayhawks a 73-59 lead midway through the period.

Oregon again came back with Anthony Lever hitting three three-point shots in a three-minute stretch as the Ducks closed within 77-72. But Oregon then went more than two minutes without scoring as the inside power and the fast-paced attack of Kansas took over.

A miss by Gooden which Langford rebounded and stuffed home symbolized the Kansas run and moments later Collison grabbed a three-point miss by teammate Jeff Boschee and laid it in. As Kansas began to stretch its advantage, Gooden and Collison both hit another layup over the weary Ducks.

Frederick Jones scored 32 points for Oregon, but there was little offense from the rest of the team.

"Kansas just played an outstanding game tonight," Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. "They were getting rebounds without people putting bodies on them and that's where we broke down."

The 104 points marked the first time a team went over the century mark in a regional final since UCLA posted a 102-96 victory over Connecticut in the West Region in 1995.

"I liked it because it was up and down, even though we were beating each other back and forth for layups," Gooden said. "It was a fun game to play in, a really fun game."

© 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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