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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 1 seed Arizona bounced out of the Pac-12 Tournament Semifinals by No. 4 seed Oregon

Emma Diaz
University of Arizona men’s basketball plays against Oregon on senior day on March 2 in McKale Center. Pictured is the starting lineup of the five graduating seniors.

The No. 1 seed Arizona men’s basketball team opened the Pac-12 Tournament with a blowout 70-49 victory against No. 9 seed USC on Thursday, March 14, in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. However, the No. 4 seed University of Oregon defeated Arizona  67-59, in the semifinals on Friday, March 15, ending Arizona’s hope of three straight Pac-12 Tournament titles. 

The Wildcats (25-8, 15-5 in Pac-12) enter March Madness amid one of their worst stretches of the season. They have a 1-2 record over their last three games, with key players, including Caleb Love and Kylan Boswell, out of rhythm entering the big dance. 

Thursday, March 14

Quarterfinals: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 9 USC

First Half: 

Both teams came out aggressive early in a back-and-forth affair throughout the opening 10 minutes. Arizona jumped out to a 10-4 lead six minutes into the half, but less than two minutes later, the Trojans evened the score at 10 after draining back-to-back 3-pointers. 

At the midway mark of the first half, the Wildcats led 12-10, but both teams struggled with ball security. Arizona had committed six turnovers, while USC had committed five. 

However, the final 10 minutes of the first half was all Arizona. After leading 16-14 with a little over 7 minutes left in the half, the Wildcats outscored the Trojans 12-2 over the final 7 minutes to grab a 28-16 lead into the break. USC was held scoreless over the final 6 minutes, going 0-10 from the field with three turnovers. 

Arizona shot 10-26 (38.5%) from the field, while the Trojans shot an abysmal 7-30 (23.3%). The Wildcats dominated the glass, out-rebounding USC 26-17. They also outscored the Trojans 10-0 on fast break points. Although a low-scoring half, Arizona was in complete control.

Second Half: 

The Wildcat lead never shrank below double digits throughout the second half. Arizona’s lead never seemed in doubt as they shut down the Trojan offense, holding them to a season-low 49 points. 

The Wildcat lead hovered around 12 points throughout the first 4 minutes of the second half. Leading 34-22, KJ Lewis hauled in three offensive rebounds, converted 6 second-chance points and assisted Love three over the next four Arizona possessions, giving the Wildcats a 20-point lead, 44-24. 

The Wildcat bench played a significant role in Arizona’s success in the second half. Lewis led the way with 11 points, followed by Jaden Bradley, who went a perfect 4- 4 from the field and scored 8 points. Paulius Murauskas, although only playing 2 minutes, added 5 points off the bench.

Behind 24 bench points in the second half, the Wildcats coasted the rest of the way, cruising to a 70-49 victory and avenging their 13-point loss against the Trojans on Saturday, March 9. Arizona’s ability to dominate the paint, the glass and bench points were on full display as the Wildcats collected their eighth consecutive tournament victory. 

The Wildcats had five players reach double figures. Lewis led the way with 15 points and six rebounds, Bradley and Love finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Meanwhile, Pelle Larsson finished with 10 points, while Oumar Ballo collected his 17th double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds. 

Friday, March 15

Semifinals: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 Oregon

First Half: 

The Wildcats struggled to get in a rhythm early against the Ducks, going 2-9 (22%) from the field throughout the opening 4 minutes of the first half. However, after trailing 7-5, Arizona flipped the script on Oregon, converting on 7 of its next 10 shot attempts, as it led 21-13 midway through the first half. 

While the Wildcats continued to flourish, pushing their lead to double-digits, the Ducks were struggling to get any of their shots to fall, going scoreless for nearly 6 minutes. Leading 27-13 with 6 minutes remaining in the first half, Arizona looked set to cruise into the half with a big lead. However, the Wildcats failed to make a field goal over the final seven minutes of the first half, but still entered the break leading by double-digits, 33-23. 

Arizona shot 11-26 (42%) from the floor in the first half, while Oregon went 9-27 (33%). In addition to the shooting struggles by both teams, the Wildcats’ inability to make their shots from the charity stripe was apparent. Arizona went 8-14 (57%) from the line, with Love, Ballo and Keshad Johnson going a combined 2-8. 

Second Half: 

The Ducks quickly cut the Wildcats’ lead down to single digits, trailing 34-29 less than 3 minutes into the second half. A Love jumper 3 minutes into the second half was Arizona’s first field goal in nearly 10 minutes, but Oregon quickly countered with a 3-pointer, followed by back-to-back baskets, cutting the Wildcats’ lead down to 2. 

A few possessions later, the Ducks, once trailing 14 points, were leading Arizona 43-41. Sloppy basketball plagued the Wildcats, who were losing the turnover battle 7-2 midway into the second half. Arizona regained the lead momentarily before Oregon went on a 10-0 scoring run, jumping out to its largest lead of the game, leading 53-44 with 8 minutes remaining in the second half. 

As the minutes wound down, Arizona trailed by 13, nearing the 4-minute mark. However, a costly technical foul by Oregon and a common foul gave the Wildcats 4 straight free throws, allowing Arizona to cut its deficit down to 61-54 without any time going off the clock. 

The Wildcats’ late rally ultimately fell short, as the Ducks held on to upset Arizona 67-59 and advance to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship. The Wildcats’ 59 points were their lowest-scoring effort of the season and their third straight game with 70 points or less. Arizona was outscored 44-26 in the second half, raising eyebrows for their recent offensive struggles as they now turn their focus to March Madness. 

Only two Wildcats reached double figures, with Ballo capturing yet another double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Larsson added 11 points, while Johnson and Bradley scored 8 points. Meanwhile, Arizona’s leading scorer, Love, continued to struggle, as he was held to only 6 points. Over the last three games, Love is averaging only 6.3 points, while shooting just 20.6% from the field.

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