March 23, 1999
By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
NEW YORK (AP) - Michael Gill broke open a close game with 17 of his career-high 22 points in the first nine minutes of the second half as California beat Oregon 85-69 in the NIT semifinals Tuesday night.
The Golden Bears (21-11) advanced to Thursday night's final at Madison Square Garden against the winner of Tuesday's other semifinal between Xavier and Clemson.
In beating the Ducks (19-12) for the first time after two losses in Pac-10 play this season, California rode Gill's hot streak and went on a 17-5 run in the first 6:32 of the second half. The surge extended a 35-32 halftime lead to 52-37.
But Gill, who was 10-of-14 from the field, wasn't finished. The 6-foot-6 senior forward hit three more baskets and the Bears led 58-44 with 11:02 left in the game.
By then, the Ducks were finished. Not even the 3-point shooting of Alex Scales could keep them in the game. Cal's biggest lead was 19 points - 79-60 with 1:36 left - after two foul shots by Thomas Kilgore.
Sean Lampley had 16 points, 12 in the first half, and Francisco Elson and Carl Boyd had 13 apiece for California. Terik Brown led Oregon with 16 points, A.D. Smith had 14 and Scales 12, including two 3-pointers in the second half.
Gill's previous career high was 18 points, most recently in last week's NIT quarterfinal win against Colorado State.
In its first three NIT games, California never had the luxury of a comfortable lead late in a game. Against Fresno State, the Golden Bears rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit to win in the first round; then they came back from a 17-point deficit to beat DePaul; and they trailed Colorado State by a point with two minutes left before winning.
The 19,500-seat Garden was three-quarters empty for the game, but the Cal fans had plenty to cheer about beginning late in the first half.
Thanks to a late 8-0 run, Cal led by three points at halftime. Elson's dunk with 57.3 seconds left capped the spurt and gave the Golden Bears a 33-30 lead.
Each team held a five-point lead in the first 20 minutes. Lampley scored 10 straight for Cal to put the Bears ahead 19-14 with 11:27 left.
But Oregon countered with its two 7-footers, 7-0 Mike Carson and 7-2 Chris Christoffersen, and came back to take a 28-23 lead after a Christoffersen's dunk with 4:25 remaining.
In the first two meetings between the teams, Oregon won at Oakland - where
the Bears played their home games this season - 71-69 in overtime, and then won
93-82 in the regular-season finale.