Arizona vs. Oregon: Wildcats out of luck, three-point trends key

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The Arizona Wildcats have run out of luck and face a cruising Oregon Ducks team in a hostile Matthew Knight Arena.

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: ESPN2

The Arizona Wildcats can't chance it any longer.

The Oregon Ducks are 16-0 in Matthew Knight Arena, and the Wildcats visit for the first time and after coming off a lucky and ugly first weekend in Pac-12 play. Arizona won't have the luxury of having poor production from its big men coupled with a struggling backcourt any longer -- the Ducks (12-2) have a rowdy crowd and a stiff defense waiting.

So should there be reason to believe the Wildcats will get out of their offensive funk? Only those who saw the Wildcats in the past week of practice can know anything more than us.

But as much as they've won by luck, the optimist would say the Wildcats are surely due to break out of a funk.

They've looked sluggish on defense and stagnant on offense. Mark Lyons has taken the blame for the latter part of that, but his offensive production -- the thing that has time and time again made up for all of his shortcomings -- has also been lacking.

Excuse this New Year's eve reference: like a firecracker with a questionable fuse, you never know when Lyons is going to ignite. For all you know, the explosive will fizzle out, causing you to approach while trying to light it again. Then, it'll go off in your face.

The senior point guard could be due to do just that.

Oregon surely would hope Arizona (14-0) continues to struggle on offense. In the Ducks' two games against ranked opponents -- Cincinnati and UNLV -- they both lost and won close games, but they were competitive by holding the Bearcats and Rebels to below 40 percent shooting.

Sean Miller said to multiple media outlets this week that, unlike last year, his team has remarkably won close games. Last year, if you remember, they were often on the losing end of close contests.

Said Miller:

"At 14-0 you have to be in a number of close games, and we've been on the positive end of them," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "I hope we can continue to do that."

The matchups

The Wildcats will have the biggest advantage in the backcourt, where the Ducks are talented but young. Damyean Dotson's 11.8 points per game leads a balanced offense that has five players averaging at least 10 points per game, but he starts with fellow freshman Dominic Artis. Nick Johnson should be able to hang tough with Dotson, and Mark Lyons should be able to beat up on the 6-foot-1, 185 pound Artis.

Conversely to Arizona's situation, Oregon has experience in the paint with seniors Tony Woods and Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi, but neither should be expected to score in the 20s. Kazemi's 20 against University Texas-San Antonio is tops for the duo this year.

It very well could turn into a defensive battle with low shot totals but Arizona's biggest weakness of late might not be an issue against the Ducks.

That would be the three-point defense. While Arizona's size has been effective in allowing UA's perimeter defenders the ability to add more ball pressure than ever before, it's come at a cost.

The Arizona Daily Wildcat's Kyle Johnson writes that Miller's ability to go with larger lineups has hurt Arizona's three-point defense. That's from a standpoint of speed and rotations. The Wildcats' youth hasn't helped the three-point defense, either.

The kicker? Oregon is 251st in three-point percentage in the nation by shooting a lousy 31.5 percent from deep. Arizona is 30th in the nation at 38.2 percent.

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