March 8, 2003
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
TUCSON, Ariz. - As he did so many times in his four seasons as Arizona's point guard, Jason Gardner left McKale Center a winner.
Gardner, in the final home game of his outstanding career, scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half Saturday, and the top-ranked Wildcats pulled away to beat Oregon 88-80.
"He was on fire," teammate Rick Anderson said. "His heart, his attitude and his desire to win are just so good. That's what's going to take us far."
Arizona's three senior captains - Gardner, Anderson and Luke Walton - were honored with their families in a post-game ceremony.
"We knew we were going to win," Walton said. "Oregon's a great team, but we were going to do what we had to do. We weren't going to go down on senior night."
The Wildcats (25-2, 17-1 Pac-10) trailed much of the game, but finally took control with a 17-2 run that put them up 66-56 with 6:39 to play on Salim Stoudamire's 16-footer.
"They've just got so many weapons. It's tough to guard all of them."
-- Oregon's Luke Ridnour
Stoudamire, benched in the second half against Oregon State on Thursday night because coach Lute Olson didn't like his attitude, had 19 points, 17 in the second half. Olson said Stoudamire came to his office Friday and apologized.
"He said he felt badly about it and he knew he was wrong," Olson said. "You could see in how he played today. He made some excellent passes, and I didn't get depressed looking at him."
Stoudamire's consecutive 3-pointers put Arizona ahead 72-60 with 5:35 to go. Channing Frye scored 13, six in the decisive run.
Luke Ridnour had 26 points and seven assists for the Ducks (20-9, 10-8), who were swept on their Arizona trip. Their NCAA tournament hopes could hinge on their play in next week's Pac-10 tournament.
"I think we've got to win another one to make sure we get in," Ridnour said. "We're so close that it can go either way. We've got to make sure we get one win, and maybe a couple, in the tournament."
Ridnour broke Oregon's season assist record with 188, surpassing the mark of 184 set by Ron Lee in 1975-76. Luke Jackson added 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, while James Davis scored 11 points and Ian Crosswhite had 10.
Gardner was 6-of-9 in the second half, 4-for-6 from 3-point range. At the end of the game, the capacity crowd was chanting "Ja-son Gard-ner" for the playmaker who had started every game but one since he arrived on campus.
"It's the last time here, so I was hearing everything," Gardner said. "It was a little emotional for me. It's kind of sad that there are no more games here, but we've still got a long stretch in front of us."
Walton had eight points, six assists and three steals but shot just 2-of-11. Anderson had four points and eight rebounds.
Arizona shot 34 percent, 0-for-7 from 3-point range, and missed eight free throws in the first half, and the Ducks led 38-35 at halftime. The Wildcats shot 55 percent in the second half, including 6-for-8 on 3-pointers. Arizona had 13 steals as Oregon committed 20 turnovers, five each by Ridnour and Jackson, often on passes inside that the big men fumbled.
Still, the Ducks gave a far better effort than in their loss at Arizona State on Thursday night.
"It was a big gut-check game for us," coach Ernie Kent said. "I thought we battled our hearts out. If we would have played that way the other night, maybe we would have had that one more victory."
Ridnour hit a 3-pointer and scored on a drive in a 7-0 spurt that put Oregon up 27-20 on Jackson's inside basket with 7:52 to go in the half.
Gardner scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, took a charge and forced a jump ball as Arizona outscored the Ducks 10-2 to start the second half. His layup put the Wildcats ahead 45-40 with 16:48 to play.
But after a timeout, Ridnour hit a 3-pointer and an 18-footer, then Walton was called for an intentional foul. Jay Anderson's two free throws put Oregon back on top 47-45 with 15:26 remaining.
Matt Short's inside basket gave the Ducks a 54-49 lead with 12:57 left. Andre Iguodala's inside shot started Arizona on its big run. Gardner followed with a 3-pointer, Frye scored inside and Adams had a one-handed dunk on Gardner's lob and the Wildcats were up for good, 58-56 with 9:16 to go.
"They've just got so many weapons," Ridnour said. "It's tough to guard all of them."