No. 3 Arizona (28-3, 15-3) entered the weekend one of three teams thought to essentially be a lock to receive a one-seed in the NCAA tournament, with No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Wichita State being the others. A win over Oregon certainly would have been nice, but on Saturday afternoon the Wildcats fell short against a team looking to solidify its status as an NCAA tournament team. Oregon won 64-57, with their superior three-point shooting being the biggest reason why.
Oregon made ten of its nineteen attempts from deep, with Arizona shooting just 2-for-11 from beyond the arc. For the season Arizona hasn’t been the best perimeter shooting team, making just 35.7% of its three-pointers and 34.2% of its two-point jumpers per hoop-math.com.
The perimeter shooting, and the lack of a consistent perimeter shot-maker has been an issue all season long, but to their credit the Wildcats have managed to account for this deficiency in other areas. From an offensive standpoint Arizona’s ability to attack the offensive glass, even in the games following the season-ending broken foot suffered by forward Brandon Ashley, has factored into a number of their wins this season. That, along with their valuing of the basketball, are two reasons why the Wildcats have been one of the Pac-12’s most efficient offenses in league play (ranking third in offensive efficiency).
But what happens when Arizona can’t take advantage of those strengths? That was the case against Oregon, with the Ducks committing to protecting the defensive glass and limiting Arizona to an offensive rebounding percentage of 26.5% and also forcing 14 Arizona turnovers. Also of note on Saturday was the advantage Oregon enjoyed off the bench, with their reserves scoring 26 points (Jason Calliste: 18 points) to Arizona’s four.
For all the discussion about the perimeter shooting and what could happen against a team that can keep them off the offensive glass, the play of two key role players was also an issue on Saturday. Rondae Hollis Jefferson has performed very well in the majority of his outings, but he accounted for two points, five rebounds and three turnovers against Oregon. Both he and Gabe York, who failed to score, struggled against Oregon and that’s something the Wildcats can’t afford as the games get bigger.
Not having that extra option off the bench is something that Arizona’s adjusted to in the majority of their games following Ashley’s injury, with Hollis-Jefferson and York both contributing to the success. But if Arizona is to win the program’s second national title, those two underclassmen have to be consistent factors. If they are consistent, the Wildcats are more than capable of compensating for their lack of a perimeter marksman.