Tucson, AZ – Buoyed by the return of center Kenny Wooten, Oregon picked up their defensive intensity and grinded out a 59-54 win over Arizona before a capacity crowd of 14,032 at the McKale Center in Tucson. Paul White led the Ducks with 16 points while Chase Jeter scored 12 points for Arizona.
Wooten combined with Louis King and Ehab Amin to apply perimeter pressure on Arizona’s offense. The Wildcats were held to 36 percent from the field including 27 percent (6-of-22) from deep. Those numbers were even worse until the Wildcats connected on three late three-pointers. Oregon was credited with six blocked shots but they only credited Wooten with one, and I had him with three. The Ducks also helped force 14 Wildcat turnovers, nine of them in the first half. Oregon created 11 points off those turnovers. Amin was a force on defense coming up with three steals.
Victor Bailey Jr. took control of Oregon’s offense late in the first half scoring ten points while connecting on two three-pointers. Oregon took a 31-23 lead into the break as they held Arizona to 29 percent shooting. White picked up the offense with 11 second half points including an inside basket after Arizona cut Oregon’s lead to 45-41. Brandon Randolph hit a three-pointer with 2:07 left to bring the Wildcats within 52-48 but then Bailey Jr. connected on a three of his own on the subsequent possession to extend Oregon’s lead to seven points. Arizona got to within three points late but Payton Pritchard put the game way with two free throws.
Defense seems to be Oregon’s calling card for the rest of this season. Tonight their offense didn’t look particularly good. They shot only 38 percent overall but did connect on 7-of-17 (41 percent) from deep. King (10 points) had an off-game shooting (3-of-11) but did come up with a team-leading nine rebounds. Prichard (4 assists) only shot 2-of-9 but scored an important basket after a steal at the end of the first half and did make all four of his free throws. Wooten (5 points, 7 rebounds) played 25 minutes in his first game back, wearing an attractive facemask and provided interior defense that the Ducks sorely needed. Oregon had zero turnovers for the first 18 minutes of the game and ended with a respectable nine. However, most of the time the game was played at a slow pace with limited fastbreak opportunities. The Ducks only scored four points on fastbreaks with the Wildcats getting 12.
For Arizona, center Jeter was active much of the game and added ten rebounds to his team-leading 12 points. Sophomore Ira Lee provided some action off the bench with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting including two dunks. The rest of the Wildcats had trouble putting the ball in the basket with starters Randolph shooting 2-of-9, Brandon Williams made only 3-of-8 and 6-9 Ryan Luther connected 1-of-7 missing all five of his three-pointers..
The Pac-12 conference race will be interesting as there are no exceptional teams. There will be upsets and the race for the top of the conference will likely continue to the end of the regular season. With the win Oregon evens their conference record at 2-2 as they head to Arizona State on Saturday night. Arizona (4-1) suffered their first loss in conference and will host 3-1 Oregon State, also on Saturday night.