Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
The Oregon Ducks upset the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats on Thursday to end their 14-0 start to the year.
The Ducks fans rushing the court as Sean Miller walked off of it with a Carl Lewis, "whatever" look on his face said it all.
It was typical Miller. He never showed much frustration, and he didn't pull out the useful extreme press until it was too little, too late. He knows this is a long season. No panic right now.
The Wildcats' defense was sharp, Oregon was reeling and struggling just to keep possession of the ball, and a missed shot was the result. Arizona's Nick Johnson got the rebound and flew up the court. He'd been the main reason the Wildcats were in the game after UA found itself down by 12 just two minutes earlier. It was their trapping defense forcing four of the Ducks' 13 turnovers in the final five minutes of the game.
Johnson was also the reason Arizona was down as a shell of the player the Wildcats had seen when UA was cruising earlier in the season. He had 12 points, four turnovers and six rebounds Thursday.
Off the rebound, Johnson had a three-point deficit to solve. So when he passed the three-point line and drove, it was not the worst decision. But it was a bad one. Three Ducks players had run back on defense, and Johnson lost the ball in a forest of Ducks -- the forest not on the Matthew Knight Arena court.
Arizona had to foul. Oregon hit one of two free throws. The Wildcats lost. Finally.
Miller inserted Kevin Parrom into the starting lineup in perhaps a sign that he knew Oregon was the team that would ultimately end the 14-0 start to the season. It didn't have the same spark of Parrom coming off the bench, and the forward scored seven points and three rebounds before fouling out of the game.
Although, something worked initially. Arizona ran out to an 11-0 beginning to the game and hit three three-pointers. After that, the fire that had been lacking disappeared for another 33 minutes.
The Ducks, who came into the game shooting just above 30 percent from three, went 7-of-11, and became yet another team to give Arizona -- with the growing target on its back -- their best. Senior E.J. Singler scored 14 points and had seven assists and seven rebounds for Oregon, which shot 57 percent from the first half and 48 percent for the game.
Oregon led 41-30 at the halftime break, and most of the second half was a back-and-forth. Again it came down to the final seconds, but this time the Wildcats' mistakes caught up with them. Johnson's was the final straw.
Oregon played both man defense and zone during the game, and both did what was needed to keep the Wildcats out of the paint.
It wasn't so much turnovers that hurt the Wildcats, though Lyons and Johnson had four each. It was Oregon holding Arizona to 14 points in the paint, taking away its aggressiveness. There was anything but sleek passing, and the Wildcats got to the foul line 11 times.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats shot 44 percent from the floor.
Lyons continued to play hero ball when times got tough, launching threes and sometimes making them. The senior led Arizona with 21 points, and Solomon Hill added 16 points and six rebounds. Lyons was befuddled as the only Arizona player to reach the lane. Once he was there, Oregon's Tony Woods and Waverly Austin were waiting to send any shot attempt at the rim flying into the stands.
It's easy to push the blame to Lyons for the offensive troubles.
Now questions could begin arising about the coaching decisions. Why press so late in the game? Why cut the bench minutes to Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Jordin Mayes? Miller coaches by allowing more freelancing and freedom, and that leads to confidence later in the year. His players must learn how to play with one another within a framework.
But Arizona's biggest issue is its freshmen. They're far from learning how to play with Hill, Lyons and Johnson on offense, and teams are finding ways to force them into bad situations defensively. Whether that's an issue of coaching or youth is a debate for another day. The trio of Jerrett, Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski combined for seven points and 11 rebounds.
There's a long way to go.
Arizona probably deserved to be a one-loss team heading into Thursday. They probably didn't deserve to be ranked No. 4.
With Arizona not at its best and at this point in the season, it's not as huge of a loss for Arizona as big of a win for Oregon, which could soon have a strong case for being ranked.
And Miller and the Wildcats have their wakeup call.