Gators Shut Down Oregon's Pint-Sized Porter
Senior Aaron Brooks encouraged the freshman to keep shooting
March 25, 2007
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ST. LOUIS (AP) - Tajuan Porter was a big reason Oregon reached the Midwest Regional finals.
He's also a big reason why the Ducks are headed home.
The 5-foot-6 guard, who stood so tall in Oregon's semifinal win over UNLV, struggled to get off shots against the bigger, longer Gators. When he did find his range, it was too late and Florida beat the Ducks 85-77 on Sunday.
"They always had a defender on me, sometimes a longer defender or a taller defender on me," said Porter, who had 10 points on 2-for-12 shooting. "They had pretty good shot pressure on me every time I had the ball."
Porter was 2-for-10 from beyond the arc, two days after scoring 33 points and matching an NCAA regional record with eight 3-pointers against the Runnin' Rebels. He also had four 3-pointers in the second round against Winthrop, breaking open a close game.
But neither of those teams had Florida's athleticism on the perimeter.
If he wasn't guarded by 6-foot-2 guard Lee Humphrey - who hit seven 3-pointers and led the Gators with 23 points - it was 6-9 Corey Brewer shutting down Oregon's diminutive freshman.
Porter took his first 3-pointer less than two minutes into the game, but it was woefully off target. He came up short on his next seven attempts and didn't hit make a field goal until less than a minute left in the game.
"He's so fast and quick, you're not going to prevent him from getting it off," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "A lot of times it's, 'Is he hot now?' There were a couple ones that he didn't really have a clean look and he missed pretty significantly."
When the Ducks got into transition and Porter pulled up from beyond the arc, all of those rainbow jumpers that touched nothing but net against the Runnin' Rebels banged off the iron or caromed off the backboard.
"All of his shots were on line, just a little short," Ducks forward Maarty Leunen said. "He wasn't missing by much."
Senior Aaron Brooks, who led Oregon with 27 points, told Porter during timeouts to keep his head up and keep shooting. One finally went from the wing that got Oregon with 78-72 with 40.2 seconds left.
"Tajuan is the type of kid, when he comes out and plays, misses his first five or seven and gets down," Brooks said. "You have to say, 'The next one is going in."'
Porter nailed his next 3-pointer, this one off a feed from Brooks with 17.2 seconds left that made it 81-77. But after Taurean Green made one of two free throws, Porter was called for traveling on a drive to the basket and the defending national champs snuffed out Oregon's comeback bid.
And its season.
"I know Tajuan. He was down about the game," Brooks said. "He got us here. He's a key part to the reason we're here, and you just got to be there for him and support him. Because this one game can really affect him in a negative way.
"I told him just to look at the positive things he's done this season and how he's really helped this team. He helped me a lot. He helped everybody a lot."
Oregon coach Ernie Kent, who uncovered Porter while scouting teammate Malik Hairston at Renaissance High School in Detroit, could be seen during the game encouraging Porter to keep shooting. Afterward, the veteran coach had to console the young man.
"He's had some spectacular performances," Kent said. "He's been very, very consistent. Probably the most consistent guy when it comes to scoring the ball over the course of the last 15, 16 games on this team."
While Florida celebrated yet another regional championship on the floor of the Edward Jones Dome, Porter sat disconsolately in the corner of a bustling locker room. His arm was draped heavily over the back of a folding chair, his chin buried in his slumping chest.
"Everybody has an off day," he said. "It really wasn't the defender, because I've been hitting shots over bigger players my whole life. I just wasn't knocking down my shots today."