Until the Arizona Wildcats learn to play for all 40 minutes and not just the second half, they are going to struggle in conference play, even if the Pac-12 is having its worst year in history. The UA tried to overcome an early 12 point deficit against the Oregon Ducks, but it was ultimately not enough as they fell 59-57. After winning 22 straight home games, the team has now lost two of their last eight games at the McKale Center.
Solomon Hill had a big second half and ended with 16 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Freshman point guard Josiah Turner played well for most of the afternoon and scored a career-high 11 points, but made some questionable decisions in the closing minutes. After recording 18 points on Thursday, Brendon Lavender did not score.
Arizona held a brief 56-54 lead with 2:59 remaining, but they would only make one free throw the rest of the way. Oregon simply executed better down the stretch and won because of it. With just a few seconds remaining, the Wildcats had a chance to win, but Lavender missed a deep attempt from behind the arc and Kyle Fogg saw a mid-range floater rim out.
It appears March Madness is now out of the question unless the team wins the conference tournament. Yes, this is a young team, but a loss at home is simply unacceptable.
The Arizona Wildcats need to continue to protect home court with Pac-12 play underway and they can earn a series sweep on Saturday with the Oregon Ducks coming to town. The Ducks, who are led by head coach Dana Altman, struggled at times against the short-handed Arizona St. Sun Devils on Thursday, but came away with the 67-58 win.
The Ducks are led offensively by senior guard Devoe Joseph, who averaged 15.3 points-per-game and has hit 43% of his shots from behind the arc. Junior forward E.J. Singler can create matchup problems with his athleticism and size and he will likely be matched up against Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom for most of the game. Garrett Sim can also light it up from behind the arc, making 47% of his 3-pointers.
Interesting Stat: Joseph, Singler and Sim all shoot 84% or better from the free throw line. The rest of the team has combined to shoot 59%. If the game is close late, the UA knows who to avoid fouling.
The game will tipoff at 1:30 p.m. from the McKale Center in Tucson. The game will be televised throughout most of the country on CBS, although you'll have to check local listings. Expect a similar starting lineup of Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry to begin the game.
The Arizona Wildcats got all they could handle from the Oregon St. Beavers on Thursday night in front of a packed house at the McKale Center, but the team managed to pull out the 81-73 victory in overtime. The game featured a little bit of everything, including a benches clearing brawl in the final minutes of OT. Kyryl Natyazhko and Joe Burton were both ejected and a total of four double-technical fouls were assessed.
This is the second straight game Burton has been ejected against the UA. He was kicked out in the first round of the Pac-10 Conference Tournament last year after a blatant elbow to Kevin Parrom's face.
After a slow, defensive minded first half, both the Wildcats and Beavers caught fire in the second half. Brendon Lavender was the star of the show, going 5-for-5 from beyond the arc in the second half. The senior shooting guard, who has come off the bench his entire career at the UA, single-handedly carried his team in the second half and ignited the crowd of 14,142. Kyle Fogg had a big game with 23 points, including the game-tying layup in the final seconds of regulation, while freshman Nick Johnson added 19 points in 29 minutes.
Oregon State would seemingly answer every time the Wildcats made a run and they were led by Jared Cunningham and his 22 points. Ahmad Starks had 14, while Devon Collier added 11 off the bench.
Sparks flew in the final seconds of the second half. As afore mentioned, Fogg drove to the basket and tied the game at 72-72 with 19.1 left on the clock. The Beavers got a wide open look at the buzzer, but the ball went in-and-out, sending the contest into overtime.
Arizona beat OSU at their own game in OT, out-rebounding the Beavers and coming away with three steals. Other than an early free throw, the opposition did not score. After two quick buckets, Kyle Fogg stole the ball and sprinted down the court. He converted on a layup and was fouled in the act of shooting, sending the arena into a frenzy.
Fogg proceeded to move in the direction of Jared Cunningham, who made the clean foul, before Cunningham shoved Fogg when he got a little too close for comfort. The benches cleared before being separated by coaches and various players and the referees took a few minutes to assess the fouls.
It was a wild game in Tucson this evening. There will likely be no suspensions to any of the players involved in the altercation, although the Pac-12 will review video on Friday.
As for Arizona, the team improves to 3-1 in conference play and will host the Oregon Ducks on Saturday afternoon. Tipoff is set for 1:30 p.m.