After a pair of close calls at home last week for No. 4 Arizona many wondered when the Wildcats’ luck (and 14-game win streak to start the season) would run out.
Enter the Oregon Ducks, who thanks to a balanced offensive effort led by senior E.J. Singler (14 points, seven assists and seven rebounds) handed Arizona its first loss of the season by the final score of 70-66.
Mark Lyons led the Wildcats with 21 points, and the Wildcats’ loss leaves Duke and Michigan are the the nation’s last two undefeated teams.
Once again Arizona struggled offensively, as they were outscored by Oregon 41-19 in the first half after opening the game with an 11-0 run. The Ducks did a better job of taking away the open looks from the perimeter after that 11-0 stretch, which allowed them to take control of the game.
Oregon answered the Arizona run with a 16-2 run of its own, and with their front court outplaying Arizona’s young big men the gap continued to grow throughout the first half. The trio of Arsalan Kazemi, Tony Woods and Waverly Austin proved to be too much for the Wildcat freshmen, and on the night they combined for 22 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots (three by Austin).
That may not seem like much but when compared to the seven points, 11 rebounds and one blocked shot supplied by Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski it’s clear which front court held the upper hand.
As a result of the freshmen’s struggles Arizona went back to its “small” lineup for large stretches of the game with Kevin Parrom (who started) and Solomon Hill at the three and four, respectively. Hill finished with 16 points and six rebounds while Parrom scored seven points in 22 minutes before fouling out.
Last week’s results led many to question just how large the gap was between the Wildcats and the rest of the Pac-12, and tonight’s defeat is an indication not only of the fact that the race is wide open but also that Oregon will be heard from as the season wears on.
Dana Altman’s team doesn’t have a player ranked in the top 20 in the conference in scoring (Damyean Dotson entered the night ranked 24th with an average of 11.8 ppg) but they get it done with balance and they share the basketball.
Seventeen of Oregon’s 25 field goals were of the assisted variety, with Singler (seven assists) and freshman Dominic Artis (three) leading the way. Four starters reached double figures and the fifth, Dotson, scored nine points.
Add to that the fact that Oregon ranks in the top three in the Pac-12 in both field goal (3rd) and three-point (1st) percentage defense and the end result is a team that is more than capable of contending for a conference title.
Next up for Oregon is Arizona State this weekend, and the goal now is to keep building on the positive momentum. With wins over UNLV and now Arizona the Ducks have two wins that will look good on their resume.