EUGENE, Ore. (AP) After a loss at Colorado and a close call against Arizona State, Oregon bounced back big time with a rout of Arizona.
The 85-58 victory on Saturday pushed the Ducks from No. 13 to No. 5 in the AP Top 25 released Monday. The jump was the largest in this week’s poll and brought Oregon back to its preseason ranking.
The Ducks (21-3, 10-1) now sit atop the Pac-12 standings with Arizona and have the tiebreaker with their victory. The Wildcats (21-3, 10-1) dropped from fifth to No. 9 in Monday’s poll.
“If they have another level above that, that’s a bad thing for every team in the country,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said about the Ducks after the loss.
With seven regular-season games to go, perhaps Oregon’s biggest challenge down the stretch will come on Thursday when the team travels to Pauley Pavilion to face No. 9 UCLA (21-3, 8-3). And of the Ducks’ seven remaining games, five are on the road.
But the victory over Arizona certainly gave the team confidence.
“I feel like the sky’s the limit,” junior forward Dillon Brooks said. “We can play even better than that.”
Oregon coach Dana Altman used the upcoming schedule to spur his team on against the Wildcats.
“I told our guys we have five road games. We got a much tougher schedule (than Arizona),” he said. “We have to win the game today or it’s over, and it would have been.”
Before the statement-making win over Arizona, the Ducks were slumping a bit. They fell 74-65 at unranked Colorado on Jan. 28 then struggled at home in a 71-70 victory over Arizona State last Thursday.
The Ducks built a 38-18 lead over the Wildcats and cruised to the win, leading by as many as 37 points in the second half. It was such a blowout that the home crowd started to chant for Charlie Noebel, a walk-on who had played just 23 minutes this season. Fans got their wish and Noebel played the final three minutes.
The victory was Oregon’s 40th straight at Matthew Knight Arena, now the nation’s longest home winning streak after Kansas fell at home on Saturday.
“It’s the best game we’ve played in the three years I’ve been here,” Brooks said. “Guys were focused and confident in their shots.”
Tyler Dorsey led the Ducks with 23 points and six 3-pointers. Brooks added 18 points, and on Monday was named the Pac-12 player of the week – not only for his performance against the Wildcats but because of his rally against the Sun Devils. The Ducks trailed Arizona State by a point with 3:15 left, but Brooks went on a personal 12-point run for the win and finished with 27 points.
Brooks is leading the Ducks with an average of 14.4 points a game, but he’s averaging 16 points against Pac-12 opponents.
The Ducks’ No. 5 ranking brings the team back to their preseason position in the AP poll. Oregon had some trouble out of the gate, with November losses at Baylor and against Georgetown in Maui, but had a 17-game winning streak before the Colorado loss.
Last season, the Ducks won a school-record 31 games while claiming the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles. Oregon earned a first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the Ducks advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2007.
The Ducks also rebounded from a brief stumble last season: They lost back-to-back games on the road in mid-February. Under Altman, the Ducks are 40-16 in the second half of the conference season.
Brooks credits his coach with keeping the team focused.
“He always finds a way – if we’re on top, keeps us level-headed and keeps us focusing and working hard, and if we’re down, finds a way to push us to go harder,” he said.
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