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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A tale of 2 halves

    A tale of 2 halves

    After Arizona could not stop Oregon’s hot shooting in the second half Saturday, the Wildcats may have blown their best shot to guarantee themselves a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

    The Ducks (18-12, 9-9 Pacific 10 Conference) scorched the nets in the second half, hitting 8-of-9 3-pointers (88.9 percent) after a 2-for-10 showing in the first half on their way to a 78-69 home win over Arizona (18-13, 8-10).

    Blown assignments contributed to the downpour of Oregon shots, as the Ducks hit 81.3 percent (13-for-16) overall from the field in the second half in comparison to 46.9 percent in the first, whereas Arizona converted just 36.7 of its shots in the second half.

    “”They were hot (in the second half), but we needed to make them miss,”” UA guard Jerryd Bayless told GoDucks.com. “”If you’re going to miss assignments like that, they’re going to make them. They have great shooters.””

    The Wildcats now sit squarely on the bubble after finishing in seventh place in the league and will have to open next week’s Pac-10 Tournament on Wednesday against No. 10 seed Oregon State, who they beat by 36 points Thursday.

    Arizona had never finished lower than fifth or lost more than seven games in the league in the last 23 years, the same number of consecutive seasons the team has reached the NCAA Tournament.

    No Pac-10 team has ever made it without a record over .500 in league play. Still, 13 teams with conference records two games under .500 have been selected to the Big Dance in NCAA history, although seven came from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

    Despite a Ratings Percentage Index at No. 31 and a strength of schedule ranked No. 2 after the game, the Wildcats could be in trouble if ASU or Oregon make some noise in the league tournament, as both teams swept the season series from Arizona.

    It’s doubtful seven teams would make it, but UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill isn’t worring too much about things he can’t control.

    “”We’re going to take it one day at a time and let the committee do their job,”” he said. “”That’s about all you can do.””

    The turning point in Saturday’s game came five minutes into the second half when UA forward Chase Budinger missed an open 3 that would have had Arizona up seven. Instead Oregon guard Tajuan Porter reined in 3s on the Ducks’ next three possessions to jumpstart a 15-2 run in which Oregon ran away with the game.

    “”They were huge,”” O’Neill said of Porter’s 3s. “”They’re a real streak team, and they streaked, and we weren’t able to get back.””

    Foul trouble doomed the Wildcats, as forward Jordan Hill and guard Bayless each picked up four fouls halfway through the second half and had to sit during crucial stretches, with Bayless playing 33 minutes and Hill 18.

    None of Hill’s fouls came in the fashion coaches would like to see their big guys pick them up.

    “”Foul trouble was a big issue,”” O’Neill said. “”We got some dumb fouls in the first half. We got a couple key players on the bench. Without Jordan in there it put us in a tough spot.””

    Without Hill for half the game, the Wildcats were outrebounded 36-23. Budinger grabbed nine rebounds for Arizona but none of his teammates collected more than three, while Oregon forward Marty Leunen snatched 15 by himself and forward Joevan Catron added 12, which O’Neill attributed to the Ducks aggressive playing.

    “”It was a very physical game down low,”” Budinger told GoDucks.com. “”Boards were a huge key to the game, and they outboarded us.””

    Guard Nic Wise played all 40 minutes and contributed 12 points and eight assists in what O’Neill expected to be his toughest game back following knee surgery.

    But that wasn’t enough as the Wildcats could not capitalize on a chance to all but punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

    “”We played really well tonight for 30 minutes, and then just didn’t finish the job,”” O’Neill said.

    And 1

    Oregon swept the season series from Arizona for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign. … Wise did not turn the ball over once in his 40 minutes, and the Wildcats turned it over just six times as a team. … Five players scored in double figures for the Ducks, who have won three in a row.

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