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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Home winning streak is over, but Arizona still sets standard in Pac-12

Arizona+guard+Gabe+York+%281%29+pushes+against+Oregon+guard+Tyler+Dorsey+%285%29+in+McKale+Center+on+Thursday%2C+Jan.+28.
Tyler Baker
Arizona guard Gabe York (1) pushes against Oregon guard Tyler Dorsey (5) in McKale Center on Thursday, Jan. 28.

When Oregon men’s basketball head coach Dana Altman walks into the living room of a recruit’s home for an in-house visit, one question always comes up in conversation:

Can you help us beat Arizona?

On Thursday night in McKale Center, the No. 23 Ducks did just that, knocking off No. 18 Arizona and ending the Wildcats’ nation-leading 49-game home winning streak.

The win kept Oregon atop the Pac-12 Conference standing and sent Arizona fans home with the taste of a McKale defeat for the first time since Feb. 10, 2013.

But make no mistake, one defeat on a Thursday night in January doesn’t end Arizona’s dominance atop the Pac-12.

“Our program, we’ve been chasing Arizona,” Altman said. “And we still are.”

Arizona’s winning streak spanned a pair of Elite Eight appearances, a Pac-12 Tournament title, two Pac-12 regular season championships and a plethora of current and future NBA players.

“This is the program that has set the standard in the Pac-12. It’s not even debatable,” Altman said.

The streak encompassed a couple of close wins and many more blowouts. Last season, the Ducks were on the receiving end of one of those demolitions when Arizona knocked out Oregon 90-56.

“We’re just glad we could break the streak,” Oregon sophomore Dillon Brooks said after the game.

Brooks finished with a game-high 24 points including a 3-pointer that put the Ducks up eight points with just under five minutes to go.
In the game’s closing moments, the shots that normally fall at home didn’t, and Oregon never let off the pedal. An unseemly sight arose in the final few minutes: Arizona fans leaving their cushioned seats early, afraid to visually witness the end of one of the best runs in UA basketball history.

After the game, Brooks and his team celebrated in the locker room like they’d just won a title. In some ways, they did.
The win keeps Oregon atop the conference with Washington.
With Pac-12 play nearly at its midway point, Arizona sits at an uncomfortable .500 winning percentage, two full games back of the Ducks and Huskies.

On paper, Oregon and the rest of the Pac-12 appear to be catching up.
The Ducks will almost certainly be the highest ranked team come next week, and they hold the conference’s best resume with victories over Baylor, California and now, Arizona.

Cal, UCLA and USC all appear to be on the rise and will get their respective chances to beat Arizona on its home court in the coming weeks.

The Pac-12 isn’t dominated by a single team anymore.

“Every game, you’ve got to come 100 percent, home or away,” Oregon senior Dwayne Benjamin said. “There’s a lot of good teams in here.”

Midway through Altman’s press conference, Oregon’s six-year head coach paused for a moment before reflecting on the momentous achievement by his team.

“Again, 49 games and how they kicked us here last year, we’ve got the upmost respect for their coaching staff, their players, their fans,” Altman said.

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