Oregon loses final men’s hoops game at Mac Court
EUGENE, Ore. – It wasn’t the farewell that the Ducks had hoped for venerable McArthur Court.
Carrick Felix had 19 points and Arizona State held off Oregon 60-55 Saturday night in the final men’s game at the Ducks’ home since 1927.
Felix hit a layup with 33 seconds left and added a pair of free throws down the stretch for the Sun Devils (8-5, 1-1 Pac-10). Brandon Dunson added 14 points.
Mac Court, as it is affectionately known, is the second oldest active on-campus arena in Division I, just two years younger than Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym.
Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena, named after the late son of booster and Nike co-founder Phil Knight, will host its first game on Jan. 13, when the Ducks play Southern California.
The Sun Devils were without leading scorer Trent Lockett for the second straight game because of an injured big toe on his left foot. Lockett, averaging 14.7 points, also was absent for Thursday’s 80-58 loss at Oregon State in the Pac-10 opener on Thursday.
E.J. Singler had 19 points and nine rebounds for Oregon (7-7, 0-2).
“For me personally, Mac Court has been a really special place for me and I wanted to come out with a big bang in the last big game here at Mac,” Singler said.
The Ducks lost to Arizona 76-57 on Thursday in their conference opener. That was supposed to be the first game at their new home, but it was decided back in August that it would be best to delay a gala opening because the students would still be on winter break and Oregon’s football team might be in a bowl game.
As it turned out, the No. 2 Ducks are playing in the BCS national championship game against top-ranked Auburn on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz.
The first men’s game at Mac Court was played on Jan. 14, 1927, when Oregon defeated Willamette 38-10. The building was later home to the Oregon’s famed “Tall Firs” team, which beat Ohio State 46-33 to win the first NCAA basketball championship in 1939.
A banner recognizing the feat hangs from the rafters and one of the team’s players, forward John Dick, was at Saturday night’s game. He fist-pumped for the crowd at halftime.
Arizona State jumped out 11-3 early on Dunson’s tip-in.
The Ducks closed to 21-20 on Singler’s basket and free throw with 4:24 left in the first half. But Oregon was unable to get any closer and the Sun Devils led 28-24 at the half.
Malcolm Armstead’s layup early in the second half gave the Ducks a 32-30 lead that put the crowd on its feet. Oregon held it until Dunson made a layup and a free throw to put Arizona State up 43-42 with 11:20 left. Rihard Kuksik’s 3-pointer extended it to 46-42.
The two teams wrestled with the lead until Corey Hakins’ 3-pointer made it 56-51 with 5:56 left and it appeared the Sun Devils were pulling away.
Oregon’s Teondre Williams kept it interesting with a layup that narrowed it to 56-53 with 3:29 to go. Joevan Catron added a pair of free throws for the Ducks and Sim missed on the other end for the Sun Devils.
But Felix hit on a layup with 33 seconds left that made it 58-55 for Arizona State. He added two free throws with just more than 10 seconds to go to seal it.
“I thought our guys really showed a lot of heart tonight to come into this environment and find a way to get a win. It makes me really proud,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said.
Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan came to watch son Jamelle, a guard for the Sun Devils. Former Arizona State forward Jeff Pendergraph, a former Trail Blazer who is rehabbing after knee surgery, was also at the game.
The Ducks honored former guard Aaron Brooks, who now plays for the Houston Rockets, as an honorary captain. Brooks was greeted with a standing ovation from the crowd when he arrived at the game midway through the first half.
But the star of the game was Mac Court.
Also known as The Pit, hosted more than sporting events in its eight decades. Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy campaigned for the 1968 Oregon primary there, shortly before he was assassinated in California. Bill Clinton appeared there in 1992 before he became president.
Elvis Presley and the Grateful Dead performed at the arena.
What Mac Court lacks in modern conveniences, it makes up in character. Known as one of the more intimidating courts in the Pac-10, the raucous “Pit Crew” student section seems nearly on top of the floor.
The whole building trembles when the Pit Crew hops and stomps, and the backboards of the baskets have been known to shake when the student section leaps together.
After Saturday’s game, Mac Court won’t close forever. The women’s team, which has played there since the late 1970s, plays its final two games there next week. The building will continue to host the volleyball team and various club sports.
Phil Knight and his wife Penny donated $100 million to the athletic department’s Legacy Fund, which helped jump-start the new arena project. Their son Matthew died in a 2004 scuba diving accident in El Salvador, where he was working for an orphanage.
The $227 million Matthew Knight Arena, which features a distinctive floor designed to look as if it’s shadowed by a forest, will seat 12,500.
Catron joked about what he likes about the new building.
“No flies,” he laughed. “But no, I took a little tour last week and the place is just amazing. Maybe that might be a start to getting our season on the other end. So I’m ready to get our of this building and try and refresh ourselves.”