Ducks clobber Wildcats: 'The ball was going into the basket'
EUGENE, Ore. — Seconds after the final buzzer rang and the Oregon fans commenced celebrating their 85-58 upset victory over the No. 5 Arizona Wildcats, Arizona head coach Sean Miller walked towards Oregon head coach Dana Altman, shook his hand, and smiled.
“It was just one of those days,” said Altman after the game, sporting a sly smile of his own.
A day for the record books, would be a more accurate way of describing No. 13 Oregon’s beat down of the Wildcats (21-3, 10-1), who had won 15-straight coming into Saturday’s top-tier matchup at Matthew Knight Arena. The Ducks (21-3, 10-1) knocked down an arena record 16 three-pointers in the contest, and racked up 26 assists on 30 made field goals.
“Heck, we don’t go 16-of-25 from three in shooting drills,” said Altman. “We just got it going. You have those days, but you also have days where the ball just doesn’t go in and you have to grind it out, and that was the case for [Arizona].”
Tyler Dorsey, who has been trying to shake off a shooting slump for the past several games, led the Ducks with 23 points while going 6-for-6 from beyond the arc. Three-straight triples fell for the Sophomore early in the game, and Dorsey remained hot throughout the contest.
“My teammates just kept finding me in great spots,” said Dorsey. “After that first one I felt like I could just keep it rolling and they kept finding me throughout the game.”
Dillon Brooks, who assisted on a number of Dorsey’s triples, finished the game with 18 points, including 8 of the first 10 for Oregon. However, two early fouls led Brooks to the bench midway through the first half. Without their playmaker, the Ducks mounted a 17-0 run to go up 38-18 at the half.
“It was crazy to watch man, I just kept counting like six or seven made threes,” said Brooks. “It was just great to watch those guys making plays out there.”
Arizona, who has been one of the top scoring offenses in the Pac-12 with 76.0 points per game, was held to just 27 points with just over 12 minutes to play. A couple of Oregon players remarked that Saturday was the most fun they’d ever had playing basketball, but what Altman took away from the victory was a sense of gratification.
“They had fun because the ball was going into the basket,” said Altman. “I think you also have some gratification when you know you’re playing really hard, and playing really well together defensively. The fun part of the game is shooting, and scoring, but the toughness is the gratifying part — that’s when you feel good about what you did.”
Well then, there is a lot to feel good about if you are in the Oregon locker room right now. The Ducks held Arizona to a season-low 58 points on 42% shooting, while also tying UCLA for most points scored against the Wildcats with 85.
To top it off, seconds before the opening tip, No. 3 Kansas fell to Iowa State in overtime, ending the nation’s longest active home-winning streak at 49 games. In second place? Oregon, with 39-straight home victories.
No longer. With the victory over Arizona, the Ducks jumped up to No. 1 on the list with 40-straight victories at Matthew Knight Arena.
Oregon was hot from the opening tip, jumping out to a 19-6 lead after three-straight three-pointers from Dorsey. Five three-pointers later, the lead ballooned to 36-11, and at one point during the first half, the Ducks had 10 made three-pointers to 11 total points from Arizona.
To close out the first half and open the second, the Wildcats were able to score 11 unanswered points, but Oregon found their rhythm again and coasted to the finish line.
Even after a blowout victory in what was quite possibly the biggest matchup in Matthew Knight history, Altman was adamant that there is still a lot of work left to do. Five of the next seven games for Oregon are on the road, with big games against UCLA and USC next week.
“I told our guys this morning, ‘To be honest, we need to win today or it’s over,’” said Altman on their Pac-12 Championship hopes. “We still have our work cut out for us. [Arizona] is still the front-runner — they still have the lead.”
Now tied with Arizona for the lead in the Pac-12, the Ducks need to virtually win out to remain in that top spot, and some tough obstacles next week will make that difficult.
But for now, there is no shame in relishing in Saturday’s victory. It isn’t every day that you make 16 three-pointers, but the best teams perform on the biggest stages. In front of a national audience, the Ducks proved that they are among the best teams in the nation. Now is the time to defend that title, and finish strong heading into March.