PULLMAN, Wash. (AP)—Another conference game, another close win for Ernie Kent and the Oregon Ducks.
“They’re all like this, every one of them. We knew coming in it would come down to the last possession,” Kent said after his No. 7 Ducks squeaked by No. 20 Washington State 77-74 in overtime to win their seventh Pacific-10 Conference game by eight or fewer points.
And thanks to clutch freethrows by Maarty Leunen, this game was like the other wins as Aaron Brooks returned from a suspension to score 31 points and help the Ducks claim sole possession of second place in the conference Saturday night.
Brooks, the league’s leading scorer, surpassed his 18.4 point average as Oregon (19-2, 7-2) stormed back in overtime after trailing for all but the final second. He was benched for disciplinary reasons when the Ducks were upset by Washington 89-77 on Thursday.
“Maarty is a great freethrow shooter, we all knew that,” Brooks said. “I had all the faith that he’d hit those shots.”
Leunen sank two free throws with 0.5 seconds left to tie it at 64-64 and force overtime.
They were the only points Leunen scored in regulation, but the 6-foot-9 junior wasn’t nervous.
“I knew I had no points. It’s kind of easy to remember how many points you have when you got none,” he said. “When you step up to the line, you’ve got to be confident and relax.”
The Ducks ran off 10 unanswered points in the extra period to take a 74-64 lead before WSU’s Derrick Low hit two 3-pointers and sank four free throws to close.
Trailing 60-51 with 4 minutes remaining in regulation, but Brooks and Tajuan Porter, who finished with 17 points, sank 3-pointers to bring the Ducks within a basket before Aron Baynes fouled Leunen, who finished with 10 points.
“I thought I saw Baynes go straight up and down with no foul,” WSU coach Tony Bennett said. “But the ref told me it definitely was a foul. We’ll look at the film.”
Bennett said the game was highly emotional for his team.
“Like always, they played with a lot of heart and battled,” he said. “We could have grabbed a couple more rebounds and that hurt. There were some tough shots (Oregon) hit at the end of the game.”
Bennett said his players were stunned when the game went to overtime.
“They’re so quick, one through five. They definitely posed some problems,” Bennett said of the Oregon starters.
Low led the Cougars (17-4, 6-3) with 37 points. He made 9 of 16 3-point attempts, including two in overtime. Chris Matthews and Kyle Weaver each had 13 points for WSU.
It marked the first game that Washington State was ranked and hosting a ranked opponent since 1950.
“It definitely was a disappointment,” Low said of the final score. “We felt we should have had them, but it shows how good the Pac-10 is. We felt pretty good going into overtime.”
Oregon trailed 61-53 when WSU’s Ivory Clark fouled out with 3:15 remaining in regulation and the Ducks went on a 9-3 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Porter. The Ducks stripped the ball from WSU’s Robbie Cowgill and Brooks pushed it up the floor and passed to Taylor, who dished it to Leunen, who also led all rebounders with 10.
Washington State led 33-27 at the half, but Oregon stayed close in the second period with 3-pointers by Brooks and Malik Hairston, who had 13 points. Brooks hit 5-of-10 3-pointers.
Oregon won the battle of the boards, grabbing 42 rebounds to WSU’s 28, but the Cougars swarming defense had 14 steals and blocked 10 Ducks shots.