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Mascot melee is averted

NASHVILLE — At halftime of Friday's Utah-Oregon game, the team's mascots entertained the crowd in a way nobody expected.

Utah's mascot "Swoop" got into a scuffle with Oregon's mascot, who we'll call "Duck," that ended with both being escorted off the floor by security.

Swoop, the red-tailed hawk, was walking on stilts on the floor during an Oregon dance routine and Duck apparently took offense. So he started pushing the legs of Swoop, who reached down and knocked the head off Duck. That made Duck very angry and he started pushing Swoop until cheerleaders came between them. When they were finally separated, both were led off the floor, apparently banished for the game.

However, during the first media timeout of the second half, both birds reappeared, met at halfcourt to kiss and make up. Well, they did give each other a hug and put their arms around each other, while some fans cheered and some booed.

Afterward, a writer from the New York Times of all places, asked the Ute players about it, but since it happened at halftime, they were unaware of it.

"We didn't see it, but we'd like to know about it," said Marc Jackson, eliciting laughter in the press room.

WINNING UGLY: With one of the best offensive teams in the country going against one of the best defensive teams, the key to the Oregon-Utah outcome was which team could make the other play its style.

Because the Utes held the Ducks to 58 points, 24 under their season average, and just about what the Utes held their opponents to all year, they came out winners.

Neither team shot well as the Ducks shot just just 34.5 percent from the field, while the Utes shot just 29.5 percent. The Ducks made 17 turnovers to Utah's 15.

When asked afterward about the tag of "winning ugly," Utah's Nick Jacobson replied, "I like the tag of winning, personally. I don't care how we do it, I just like to win."

MORAL SUPPORT: Britton Johnsen flew to Nashville Wednesday night, even though he knew he wouldn't be playing Friday.

Johnsen, who has been suffering from infectious mononucleosis, was declared out of this week's NCAA Tournament games because of an enlarged spleen that hadn't diminished enough for him to be able to play.

Johnsen sat on the bench in street clothes and gave his team important moral support that his teammates appreciated.

"It's such an advantage for have Britton here with us," said Jacobson. "The fact is, he was cheering for us the whole game and getting us energized. We love Britton and he does a lot for us even when we're not playing."

"He's the most positive guy you'll ever meet," said Trace Caton. "We all feel for him and he's been nothing but a lift for us."

Johnsen was in the locker room celebrating with his teammates afterward and said he wouldn't be playing Sunday.

However, Ute team doctor Dave Petron said one more test would be performed on Johnsen Saturday to see if his spleen has gone down sufficiently for him to play. If it has, he could suit up and see action.

NO THOUGHT: Although Rick Majerus' name hasn't been prominently mentioned in Los Angeles as a candidate for the open UCLA job, it's not surprising that some folks are talking about him as a possibility for the open Bruin job.

Majerus who always refuses to talk about possible jobs with the local media, answered questions about UCLA during a five-minute segment on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption show Thursday afternoon.

"They haven't contacted me," said Majerus. "I haven't given it a vague thought."

NCAA NOTES: The Utes are now 33-26 all-time in NCAA Tournament games. Majerus improved to 17-9 and is 9-1 in opening-round games, with the only loss coming last year to Indiana . . . Including Utah's win, the No. 9 seeds won three of the four 8 vs. 9 seed games this year. That makes it 42 to 34 for No. 9 seeds since the tournament was expanded to 64 teams in 1985 . . . Sunday's game will be a rematch of the 1993 NCAA second-round game between Utah and Kentucky, also played in Nashville . . . The Utes have lost four NCAA games to Kentucky since 1993, including the 1998 championship game . . . Nick Jacobson's 23 points tied a season-high and gave him 1,059 points for his career, moving him into 27th place on Utah's all-time points list, passing Johnsen (1,051). With five 3-pointers, Jacobson also moved into second place on the 3-point list with 186 . . . The Utes won despite one of the poorest games of the year from leading scorer Tim Frost, who was just 3 for 14 for nine points . . . Frost fouled out with 4:08 left after Marc Jackson fouled out with 5:41 left and Cameron Koford fouled out with 9:47. At the end of the game only freshman Chris Jackson was left with three walk-on players.