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Porter has big effort as Oregon clips UNLV

Mar 24, 2007 - 8:28 AM ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- Freshman Tajuan Porter's spotty free-throw shooting nearly spoiled his record-tying performance.

Porter hit eight 3-pointers and scored 33 points as third-seeded Oregon held on for a 76-72 victory over No. 7 UNLV in the Midwest Region semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.

Malik Hairston added 14 points for the Ducks (29-7), who advanced to a regional final for the first time since 2002. There they will face top seed and defending champion Florida on Sunday.

"They're a complete basketball team," Oregon coach Ernie Kent said about the upcoming matchup. "They're experienced. They've got size inside. Their big guys can score. Their guards are really, really good. They have everything you need to be a national champion, which is why they did it last year."

Although the 5-6 guard became just the fifth player to make eight baskets from the arc in either a regional semi or final, Porter nearly enabled the Runnin' Rebels to rally from an 18-point deficit in the second half.

After Michael Umeh's layup with 50 seconds remaining brought UNLV (30-7) within 70-66, Porter managed to only split a pair of free throws.

The Runnin' Rebels then missed a 3-pointer, and Porter was fouled collecting the defensive rebound. He converted both attempts, but Umeh hit a 3-pointer to notch his eighth straight point for UNLV, making it 73-69 with 16 seconds to play.

Porter was fouled again and only split two free throws before Joe Darger's basket from the arc pulled the Rebels within 74-72 with 10 seconds left.

"Obviously (we) got it going a little bit there late, but a little bit too little too late," said UNLV coach Lon Kruger, who missed out on taking a third team to a regional final. "I am disappointed for it to come to an end, but it happens for all but one and they have every reason to hold their heads up and feel good about all they accomplished."

Darger quickly fouled Bryce Taylor, who calmly sank both attempts with four ticks remaining to seal Oregon's seventh trip to a regional final.

UNLV's comeback might have been the one negative for Oregon, which has reeled off nine straight wins.

"I would say that's probably what we're most disappointed about because we're a much better team than we're showing down the stretch," Taylor said. "As Coach said, we're not a ball-control team. We got a bit tentative and careless with the ball. It's one of those things I feel I need to get better (with)."

Despite the shaky play down the stretch, Porter dominated the contest, shooting 8-of-12 from the arc to post his best effort since a 38-point performance with 10 3-pointers in a 116-68 rout of Portland State on November 12 - his third collegiate game.

"I just came out with a lot of confidence," the freshman said. "I tried to take good shots and knock them down."

"We have seen him play like that before early on and nothing really goes through your mind because he's just a terrific little ball player," Kent said. "Special type of player. I'm just thankful that we had enough common sense to recruit him because he was going to be a special, unique player at this level. And he sure has not disappointed us at all."

After scoring 17 points in the first half to lead the Ducks to a 37-33 edge at the break, Porter had two 3-pointers during a 13-2 burst, including the capper for a 58-40 cushion with 11:47 remaining.

"He was dynamite today," Oregon point guard Aaron Brooks said. "I think he saw that we were all struggling a little bit on the offensive side. It was just amazing. You can't do nothing but be happy for him."

"When a guy is that quick and makes threes at that rate, it's a tough combination," Kruger said. "I thought his quickness and then Brooks' quickness got us on our heels and defensively. We never did have the type of defensive possessions that we kind of hung our hat on for a while. Quickness will do that to you sometimes."

However, UNLV made their push, closing within 66-57 with 2:12 to play after Kevin Kruger had six points during an 8-0 run.

Brooks and Hairston both made a pair of free throws inside the next 27 seconds, but Umeh sandwiched a layup and a 3-pointer around a dunk by Joel Anthony to make it 70-64 with 1:25 to play.

Umeh and Kruger both had 15 points for the Rebels, who shot 9-of-33 (27 percent) from the arc.

    --- --- -----
    UNLV 33 39 72
    OREGON 37 39 76 FINAL

    Mar 24 12:05 AM
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