The Oregon Ducks(15-7, 3-7) pushed the No. 2 ranked Arizona Wildcats(22-1, 9-1) to the limit, but couldn’t buy a bucket down the stretch and faltered 65-67 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona.
The Ducks stymied the Wildcats for most of the game, and, led by a few huge one on one plays from G Dominic Artis and some heady play by G Jason Calliste, were rolling offensively as well. In fact, they took a five point lead with 3:22 remaining. However, the Wildcats defense stepped it up a notch, and in the closing minutes UO wasn’t able to run successful offensive sets or take Wildcat defenders off the dribble. On the other end, Wildcats guard T.J. McConnell made up for a 1-8 start by hitting a timely three with 1:33 remaining to give UA a 62-60 lead. Then UO simply lost what was essentially a free throw shooting contest. In two crucial possessions, G Nick Johnson made four free throws, Artis missed a pair and Calliste made 1-2. During the Ducks final opportunity, G Joseph Young desperately drove to the hoop, but was called for a travel.
The Ducks have lost in a number of head scratching ways, but free throw shooting might take the cake. The team is ranked number one in the Pac-12 in free shooting percentage and has the top three shooters at their disposal. The loss was UO’s third two-point loss of the Pac-12 season.
“A lot of our games have been coming down the last seconds and the last minutes and we’ve just got to find a way to just fight and get over that and get over the last minutes,” G Damyean Dotson told The Oregonian.
“Today, we failed. To let that one go it hurts, that’s a big one we let go. It hurt a lot,” he added.
Neither team shot particularly well, but especially Arizona. The Wildcats shot 40 percent from the field, 25 percent from the three-point line and although they shot a whopping 35 free throws, they made just 19. Highly touted freshman Aaron Gordon led the way for the Wildcats in free throw ineptitude, making two out of 11 attempts.
UO guards carried the Ducks all night. Calliste, Young, Artis and Damyean Dotson scored 50 of UO’s 65 points. Artis’ 10 points was his second highest point total of the season.
Along with knocking down clutch free throws, Johnson delivered a game high in points(18) and assists(5) despite making less than 33 percent of his shots. F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson replaced injured big man Brandon Ashley nicely in a 14 point, ten rebound, three assist and two block effort.
F Mike Moser couldn’t carry over his efficient performance against USC. The big man may have broke through the 1,000 carrier points barrier, but couldn’t find a rhythm against the tall and long UA front line. Moser scored just five points and has only scored in double figures in one out of his last six games.
In order to counter UA’s size, UO head coach Dana Altman used the services of the Ducks only center, Waverly Austin, and F Jalil Abdul-Bassit, who hadn’t played for the Ducks in 2014. The duo played 11 minutes combined and didn’t record a single point, rebound or assists.
Though UO couldn’t match UA’s length, they actually won the rebounding battle 40-35.
A victory would’ve given the Ducks a much needed signature win and put them safely in the NCAA tournament for the time being. The loss will certainly leave them on the outside looking in regarding March Madness prognostications.
The Ducks will look to split their Arizona road trip on Sunday in a matchup against Arizona State at the Well Fargo Center in Tempe.