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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Arizona’s loss at Oregon won’t reflect result of Pac-12, NCAA Tournament

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Adam Eberhardt
Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller leaves the court with his staff after the end of the game. The No. 13 Oregon Ducks play the No. 5 Arizona Wildcats at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. (Adam Eberhardt/Emerald)

It wasn’t close. Not even a little bit. Maybe the powder the Oregon student section threw on the court in the opening minute that delayed the game for three minutes was a form of witchcraft because it sure felt like it.

No. 5 Arizona came into the contest against No. 13 Oregon with pride, because the Wildcats were riding a 15-game winning streak and were alone atop of the Pac-12 conference. 

The Ducks proceeded to take every ounce of confidence the Wildcats had by giving head coach Sean Miller his worst loss at the helm since Jimmer Fredette dropped 49 points on nine 3-pointers for BYU in 2009.

“Oregon’s a great team—give credit to them. They played hard, they wanted it more and I don’t remember the last time they lost at home,” said Arizona freshman Rawle Alkins.

My dad always told me, that sometimes it takes an old-fashioned kick in the butt to finally install a sense of motivation moving forward to prevent the worst from happening. He didn’t say it exactly in those words, but it applies to how Arizona spent its Saturday afternoon and what to expect from the Wildcats moving forward.

Let’s face it, Arizona was a ticking time bomb with these stretch of games even in the non-conference schedule where the Cats played a half of basketball. But since the talent level is among the best in college basketball, Arizona continued to push its luck and hung on game-after-game.

Oregon brought the ruckus and not to take anything away from the Ducks, but how often do they shoot it like that? In the first half, Dillon Brooks had 10 points on 66 percent shooting while Tyler Dorsey went 4-for-4 from 3-point range. The Ducks headed into the locker room shooting 71 percent from beyond the arc.

“I thought they were an aggressive team—attacking the rim,” Alkins said. “If you see the stat sheet, all of their points came from threes.”

Oregon’s best 3-point performance this season was the second game of the season at Baylor when the Ducks shot 50 percent, but the Ducks lost to Baylor 66-49. Dorsey finished the afternoon 6-for-6 from 3-point range, which equaled his total from the previous five games combined.

Arizona was ninth in the country in perimeter defense and after Saturday, the Wildcats fell down to No. 31. Sounds awful, but Arizona would’ve had to half-court press Oregon if they wanted to stop them from draining threes.

“Effort wasn’t a problem. It was certainly execution,” Miller said. “Today we needed to play great. In my mind even if we played great, it still wouldn’t of been enough at the end of the day, because of how well they played.”

Miller emphasized on the bigger picture, because for a team like Arizona to lose like this, the immediate reaction is “these guys aren’t a Final Four team” or questioning the greatness of this team, but every dog has its day.

If Arizona pulled out a win in Eugene Saturday, they would’ve give off an immortal and untouchable impression, but these guys are only human. The sun is still going to come out tomorrow, Arizona is still tied atop the conference and the Wildcats are still going to be a top-15 team come Monday.

Every national contender in some way shape or form got the butt whooping of a lifetime whether it was this season, last season or 20 seasons ago—it happens. As of now Oregon is the best team in the Pac-12 and if Arizona wants another crack at them expect a date on a neutral court at the Pac-12 Conference championship at the newly built T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. 

Until then, enjoy the ride.

“I’m disappointed the game ended the way it did, but in the long journey of the season, you have those peaks and you have those valleys,” Miller said. “If this is our valley, then we have to pick ourselves up off the mat and be ready to go here when we get back against Stanford and Cal.” 


Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.


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