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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Duck hunt

Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat

Fresh off a two-game sweep over the Bay Area schools, the No. 6 Arizona men’s basketball team hosts Oregon on Wednesday in McKale Center. This is the second and final regular season matchup between the two teams. The Wildcats took the first game 80-62 on Jan. 8 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. 

Behind 21 points from UA guard T.J. McConnell, that last matchup between the Wildcats and Ducks saw Arizona grab an early lead and never relinquish it. In total, Arizona led for 39:21 of the 40 available minutes and never trailed.

Arizona head coach Sean Miller said there is no advantage to playing the Ducks about three weeks after that first matchup.
“We’re equally familiar with each other,” Miller said. “If there’s an advantage, we’ve already played them at their home court.”

Oregon’s leading scorer, Joseph Young, averages 19.3 points per game, good enough for second in the Pac-12 Conference behind Stanford’s Chasson Randle. However, the Wildcats handled Young fairly well in the first matchup, holding the senior to 4-15 shooting from the field and just 12 points in 36 minutes of action.

Miller said limiting Young on Jan. 8 is a testament to talented defenders such as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

“Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, you guys know this, but you’re not going to see very many talented defenders walk through the doors here at Arizona more than Rondae,” Miller said. “In the games that we play, many times he guards the other team’s point guard and power forward in the same game. And he does both extremely well.”

When you add capable wing defenders such as McConnell, Stanley Johnson and Elliott Pitts to Hollis-Jefferson, it’s easy to see why Arizona limits opponents to 59.5 points per game.

Against the Ducks, that perimeter defense will play a big key in the Wildcats extending their 32-game home winning streak. Oregon is first in the conference in points per game, first in free-throw percentage, third in field goal percentage, first in 3-point makes and first in 3-point attempts.

Much like their football team, Oregon’s men’s basketball team employs an up-tempo style of play that often results in fast break opportunities. Miller said there is a challenge playing against a team that pushes the tempo like Oregon does, both offensively and defensively.

“They can really take you out of what you normally do by pressing, by denying and then mixing in a matchup zone,” Miller said.

The challenge for the Wildcats will be to replicate the interior success from the first matchup. The starting front court combined for 34 points, and, as a team, the Wildcats outscored Oregon 32-26 in the paint.

Not to mention, Arizona experienced success on the boards against a smaller Oregon front court, out-rebounding the Ducks 40-27, with 10 of those 40 boards coming on the offensive glass.

Miller said the team has to crash the offensive boards when it’s smart and fall back when officials are calling fouls. 

“I’m now, as a coach, more aware of officiating,” Miller said. “Sometimes in a game, it’s not smart to offensive rebound, because they’re just going to call a foul. Sometimes, when you offensive rebound, they’ll let the game go. We have to adjust.”

Oregon has just three players over 6-foot-7, making offensive rebounding a factor in Wednesday’s game. Hitting the offensive glass hasn’t been Arizona’s strong point this season, but that could change against the Ducks.

With Oregon State up next after the Oregon game, Miller will be tasked with not only the X’s and O’s but also making sure his team doesn’t overlook the Ducks and focus on the revenge game with the Beavers on Friday.


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