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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Oregon’s 3s spell demise for Wildcats

    It was like watching someone try to stop a flood with 10 fingers.

    Sure, for the first 10 holes in the dam, everything was fine. But once that 11th hole broke through, Arizona was in trouble.

    With Oregon guard Bryce Taylor sizzling from 3-point range at halftime (4-of-6), the Wildcats made it a point to stop him. Problem was, his teammates simply took his place.

    “”You got the numbers. I mean, it’s pretty clear,”” said a drained Mustafa Shakur after Arizona’s 79-77 loss Sunday night. “”They shot pretty good, right? Like 50 percent? They shot pretty well.””

    Yeah, Oregon did OK.

    The Ducks hit on 13 of their 26 shots from behind the arc – including 5-of-7 in the second half. By contrast, the Wildcats only attempted 15 3-point shots the entire game and failed to connect from long-range after halftime.

    For a while, it looked like Arizona would be able to keep pace, and it even held a late lead at 77-72.

    But as the game wore down, it became evident that the Wildcats were trying to fight fire with hot coals, pouring lay-ups and free throws in when they could as their 3-point shots clanked off the iron.

    “”If you really look at things, it gets down to our inability to hit 3s and their ability to hit 3s,”” said UA head coach Lute Olson. “”They hit some really good shots to get us down a ways, and then we came back. We did a good job with that, we just couldn’t close it.””

    After Taylor was shut down in the second half – he missed his only shot attempt – Oregon guards Aaron Brooks and Malik Hairston filled the void, going a combined 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Even 6-foot-9 forward Maarty Leunen, who finished 2-of-2 from downtown, got in on the party.

    “”They shoot that thing from long range, and they’re outstanding shooters,”” Olson said.

    So when Brooks had the ball on what proved to be the game-winning possession, no one would have faulted the senior had he pulled up from behind the arc and floated up yet another dagger from deep.

    But no, that would’ve been too easy, too routine. Instead, Brooks drove right – “”We knew he was going to go right,”” Olson said – took Shakur to the basket – where he was met by Arizona’s Marcus Williams and Ivan Radenovic, who had come over to help – and then banked a shot off the glass with two seconds to play.

    “”What can you say?”” said UA freshman Chase Budinger. “”He hit a tough shot.””

    Said Brooks: “”I was in position to make the shot, and I came through and hit it.””

    The game-winner might not even have been the most important shot the Seattle native Brooks hit on the night. With 1:54 to play, he knotted the score at 77 with his third 3-pointer of the game.

    “”Those two shots Aaron Brooks hit at the end were both tough shots,”” said guard Jawann McClellan.

    In Arizona’s past six games, only once has an opponent hit below 45 percent from the field. And even then, Washington State shot 43 percent. So what’s causing teams to shoot so well against the Wildcats?

    “”You can only do so much,”” said the forward Williams. “”These are (Division-I) basketball players. Obviously, they’ve got some talent, so they’re going to knock down some shots, but we’ve got to get the stops and grab the rebounds that we need to get.””

    After Sunday’s loss saw the Ducks connect on nearly 46 percent, it’s evident there’s a problem that can no longer be ignored. Something has to change, and “”it’s got to be defense,”” Williams said.

    “”That’s where we were lacking, even in the win against Oregon State (on Thursday),”” he said. “”Teams shooting good percentages against us is something we can’t have with all the athletes we have.

    “”We have the ability to play good to defense. We just need to do it.””

    – Lance Madden contributed to this report

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