With the Oregon Ducks down 48-42 to the Arizona Wildcats in the second half, in the final home game of his college career, G Jason Calliste wasn’t going to let Oregon go home empty handed.
Instead, Calliste proved once again that his veins are made of pure ice.
“I told myself that if we lose, it’s is on me. So I put the team on my back,” Calliste said.
“Jason was unbelievable,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman added.
To begin Oregon’s magical run to victory on senior night, Calliste hit a three-pointer. Then after G Joseph Young hit a three of his own, Calliste made a shot that might go down as an all-timer in Oregon history. With defenders draped all over him, while being fouled, Calliste hit a deep two-point field goal on the outer edges of the court.
“He just hit big shot after big shot down the stretch. You know he’s not afraid to take it. You run something for him, he’s not going to shy away at all,” Altman said.
After knocking down the free throw, the Ducks were up 53-51. If that wasn’t enough, Calliste knocked down another three-pointer and then made a smart pass out of a double team, which led to a wide-open three-pointer by UO PG Jonathan Loyd.
“Unbelievable young man. I really enjoyed coaching him(Loyd). He cares about his teammates as much as he cares about himself,” Altman said.
WIth 2:32 remaining, the Ducks(22-8, 10-8) held a 59-51 lead and kept the lead until the final buzzer, completing a 64-57 upset over the No. 3 ranked Wildcats(28-3, 15-3).
Both teams played with supreme intensity for 40 minutes, but pristine execution was non-existent in the first half. In half one, the number one most efficient defensive team in the nation stifled almost everything the Ducks tried to accomplish offensively. The Ducks were forced to resort to a ton a contested jump shots. The only player who could get inside the paint and score was Loyd. Loyd attacked the basket as well as he has all season and scored nine first half points.
“They really pushed out on us so Johnny got to the rim a couple times,” Altman said.
However, Oregon scored just 29 points before the break and shot 37.5 percent from the field.
The Ducks stayed in the game because of their intensity and pesky defense. In fact, Arizona turned the ball over nine times in the first half, but led 31-29 heading into halftime.
“With the energy in the building and the crowd, our defensive activity was unbelievable,” Altman said.
At the start of the second half, UO F Mike Moser had a mini scoring burst. Moser tip-toed along the baseline past his defender for a lay-up and then knocked down a three-pointer in consecutive possessions.
Moser finished the game with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The forward’s four straight double-double’s is the most consecutive double-double’s by an Oregon player since Maarty Leunen in 2007.
On the other end, Arizona played more efficiently on offense and took a 48-42 lead with 7:51 remaining.
But from there on out, led by Calliste, it was all Ducks, all the time.
During Oregon’s 17-3 run late in the second half, Ben Carter stepped up big time on the defensive end.
“He contested a ton of shots and was really active out there,” Moser said.
“Ben Carter’s stepping up and making some plays, Wav’s(Waverly Austin) performance over the last couple games, it’s exciting to be able to count on those guys,” Altman said.
As you might expect, Calliste and Loyd led the Ducks in scoring, finishing with 18 points and 16 points respectively. Loyd’s 16-point effort was his highest scoring output since he put up 23 points on Dec. 8 against Ole Miss
When the Ducks were 4-8 in the Pac-12, Loyd told reporters, following their victory over Oregon State to begin the winning streak, that the Ducks were going to make a run. After Oregon won its seventh game in a row Saturday afternoon, Loyd’s words proved prophetic.
“I don’t want to say I told you so but I did,” Loyd said while grinning.
Altman commented on why players responded so well with their backs against the wall.
“A lot of guys would’ve quit, would’ve lost faith. Fortunately these guys didn’t. It shows the character in the room.”
Aaron Gordon, who barely picked the Wildcats over the Ducks as his college of choice, led the way for Arizona. The forward scored 21 points and eight rebounds, dominating Oregon with his rare combination of size, speed and athleticism.
Naismith trophy, given to the best player in the country, semifinalist Nick Johnson scored seven points in the first half, but was held to 1-7 shooting after the break.
“We were focused on him because he’s their best scorer. They were running home on baseline screens a lot, our guys were flying around. Our effort on those picks was good,” Altman said.
Though Oregon defeated the Wildcats, Altman still holds Arizona in extremely high regard.
“I still believe personally that they’re the best(team in the country) because of their defense. Defense wins game.”
The Oregon Ducks will begin the Pac-12 tournament on Wednesday against Oregon State at 6 p.m. If they’re going to win the title and attain the highly coveted automatic NCAA tournament birth, the Ducks will have to to win four straight games.
Loyd thinks they can.
“We can make some noise. We have all the weapons and all the depth.”
After his last prophecy came to fruition, ignoring another Loyd prediction just seems foolish.