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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 9 Arizona MBB split its weekend road trip against Oregon State and Oregon

Mason Kumet
Caleb Love throws down a dunk off a fastbreak during a 20-2 run against Wisconsin on Dec. 9 in McKale Center. Both Caleb and Ballo lit up McKale Center with back to back dunks in this scoring run.

Between Thursday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Jan. 27, the No. 9 Arizona men’s basketball team traveled to Oregon for matchups against Oregon State University and the University of Oregon. The Wildcats, marred by their recent struggles on the road, suffered a heartbreaking loss at the buzzer against the Beavers on Thursday, but rebounded with a massive 87-78 win over the Ducks on Saturday. The Wildcats (15-5, 6-3 Pac-12) are expected to drop in the rankings come Monday but return home tied atop the Pac-12 standings.

Arizona vs. Oregon State

The Wildcats set the pace early in the first half, grabbing a 12-point lead less than seven minutes into the opening half. Arizona maintained a lead throughout the half, but the Beavers slowly chipped away at their deficit, cutting the gap to five with just over a minute left. Three late free throws gave the Wildcats an eight-point lead heading into the break, as they led 44-36. However, the Wildcats struggled to get their shots to fall over the final seven minutes, shooting an abysmal 17% from the field, giving the Beavers momentum heading into the half.

The overall story of the first half was foul trouble and free throws. The Wildcats converted 14 out of their 20 attempts, while Oregon State scored 10 out of their 14 tries. The Wildcats had two players with two or more fouls, Kylan Boswell with three and Oumar Ballo with two, while the Beavers had three players in foul trouble.

The Beavers, carrying momentum from the end of the first half, opened the second half on an 8-3 scoring run, cutting the Arizona lead down to three less than three minutes into the half. However, the Wildcats quickly regained their footing and extended their lead to 9 points. Despite the setback, the Beavers slowly chipped away at their deficit again, tying the game up at 58 midway through the second half.

During the next five minutes, both teams exchanged baskets, with neither team establishing themselves as the dominant force. After trailing 68-66 with just over five minutes remaining in the half, the Beavers went on an 11-0 scoring run over the next three minutes. Once leading by 12, the Wildcats were now facing a 9 point deficit with under three minutes remaining.

With their backs against the wall, the Wildcats initiated a full-court press, which the Beavers struggled to beat. The Wildcats quickly scored 6 straight points to reduce their deficit to one possession. With less than 30 seconds left, the Wildcats forced a critical turnover and tied the game at 80 following back-to-back free throws by Pelle Larsson. This capped off Arizona’s impressive 12-3 scoring run over the final three minutes. Unfortunately, the Wildcats’ efforts were in vain as Jordan Pope, the Beavers‘ star sophomore guard, nailed a step-back 3-pointer at the buzzer to stun the Wildcats 83-80.

Caleb Love scored a team-high 23 points, recording his ninth 20-point game over the last 12 matchups. Keshad Johnson scored 18 points while hauling in a team-high six rebounds. Larsson wasn’t too far behind, adding 17 points, and Motiejus Krivas also contributed 10 points. Meanwhile, Ballo and Boswell continued to struggle. Ballo scored 7 points, while Boswell failed to contribute any points for the second time this month.

Arizona vs. Oregon

Similarly to the Oregon State game, the Wildcats once again set the pace early in the first half against Oregon. Less than five minutes into the opening half, Arizona led 17-5 behind a well-rounded scoring effort by five different Wildcats. However, by the midway point of the first half, the Ducks had cut their deficit down to four, as they trailed 23-19.

The Wildcats held steady for the remainder of the half, increasing their lead to 15 points with a little over a minute remaining in the opening half. Love put on a show for Matthew Knight Arena in the opening half, scoring a first-half season-high 20 points behind an 8-13 shooting performance.

The Wildcats managed to build on their lead with a late first-half surge, momentarily silencing the Oregon crowd. However, the Ducks surged late, capping off a 7-0 scoring run in the final minute with a near full-court heave at the buzzer, reigniting the energy inside the arena. Arizona led 45-38 heading into the break.

The Wildcats had a strong defensive performance in the first half, forcing 12 turnovers. They also found success from behind the arc, going 6-12 from deep. Despite shooting just under 50% overall (at 49%), their success from behind the arc marked a positive turn amid recent challenges in 3-point shooting.

The second half was all Arizona. The Wildcats seemed unfazed by the Ducks’ late first-half surge, as they quickly restored their double-digit lead less than a minute into the second half. Love continued to tear apart the Oregon defense, adding an additional 16 points in the second half to finish the night with a career-high 36 points. Love shot 12-18 (67%) from the field and 5-8 (62.5%) from deep as the senior capped off the two-game road trip with a combined 59 points.

The Wildcats ultimately cruised to an 87-78 victory over the Ducks, snapping a six-game losing streak at Matthew Knight Arena and concluding their road trip on a high note after a devastating loss Thursday night. Arizona shot 49% from the field, finished the night 10-19 from behind the arc and outrebounded Oregon 34-33.

Love dominated the scoring chart for the Wildcats, but several Wildcats, including Ballo and Boswell, had massive bounce-back performances. After tallying a mere 14 points over Arizona’s past four games, Boswell rediscovered his scoring touch, contributing 14 points and three assists against the Ducks. Meanwhile, Ballo finished one rebound shy of a double-double, as the senior tallied 10 points and nine rebounds.

Arizona, under head coach Tommy Lloyd, is 16-0 in games following a loss.

Looking ahead:

The Wildcats return home to face the University of California, Berkeley, on Thursday, Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. and Stanford University on Sunday, Feb. 4 at 6 p.m.

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