Playing in their first conference road game of the year, the No. 24 Arizona Wildcats were unable to hold on to a late lead and were defeated by the No. 9 Oregon Ducks 74-73 in overtime to fall to 11-4 overall and 1-1 in the Pac-12.
The Wildcats played well for a large part of the game against Dana Altman’s top-10 team, and were actually ahead for most of the contest, but were ultimately undone by some poor play down the stretch and (at least according to head coach Sean Miller) some 50-50 calls that didn’t go their way.
It was the Wildcats’ third loss of the season against a team who is currently in the AP top-ten.
Gonzaga is currently No. 1 and Baylor is No. 4.
While our full recap of the game can be found here, and a transcript of what Sean Miller said afterwards here, here is a further analysis of the good and the bad from the Wildcats fourth straight loss in Eugene.
Nico and Josh
The Wildcats’ two leading scorers against Oregon, Mannion (20 points) and Green (17) showed up in their first ever Pac-12 road game.
The freshmen duo shot a combined 16-28 from the field (57%) and while Nico did make some costly turnovers down the stretch and missed what would have been a game -winning floater at the end of regulation, there is no doubt that each of them made some key plays late in regulation and overtime that kept Arizona in the contest.
Nico’s three to tie the game late in OT and Josh’s steal and then go ahead bucket with seconds remaining in the extra period stand out.
Mannion also more than held own in his battle against the Ducks’ star point guard Peyton Pritchard (even if Pritchard got the better of him in the end), while Green hit a couple of threes on the night and used his athleticism to create offense for both his teammates and himself.
The UA’s other freshman star, Zeke Nnaji, certainly deserves a shout out as well for posting yet another double-double (11 points, 14 rebounds) but it was really Mannion and Green who lead the way for the Cats in this one.
If Arizona was to have any chance of springing the upset on the road against Oregon, they needed to get off to a quick offensive start in Eugene.
They did just that Thursday night and the Wildcats’ strong performance out of the gates allowed them to take a halftime lead and ultimately have a chance to win the game at the end.
While it’s obviously disappointing that the Wildcats lost once more against better competition, their quick start and overall performance until the very end of the game showed again that this team can compete against the nation’s elite.
It’s just about getting over that final hump and holding on down the stretch against better competition.
The junior may have only seen limited action on Thursday night (he only played 5 minutes) but Ira certainly provided a spark off the bench when he was on the court.
Lee threw down two prolific slams in the first half and played with his usual high motor.
With Chase Jeter seemingly regressing, Ira could start to get some more minutes in the Wildcats’ front court if he continues with performances like this one against the Ducks.
As I mentioned before, Arizona led for most of Thursday night but ultimately couldn’t finish the job.
They were up by six with 1:46 left in regulation before turning the ball over five times over the remainder of the game, including OT, and missing all but two of their last seven shots.
Those turnovers, namely ones from Mannion and Dylan Smith, were just too much for the Wildcats’ to overcome and even though they got multiple attempts to win the game in both regulation and OT they just couldn’t get any good looks.
Mannion missed a contested floater, before Pritchard blocked a mid-range effort from Nnaji to end regulation. The Cats then couldn’t execute an under the basket inbounds play with two seconds remaining in OT.
Truth be told, Arizona should have won this game, and had they executed just a little bit better at the end of it, they would have.
Putting good teams away is something this team is still figuring out.
On a night where Oregon wasn’t significantly better than Arizona on either offense or defense, one thing that the Ducks certainly did better than the Wildcats was hustle.
Oregon finished with 13 offensive rebounds and seemingly came away with every loose ball down the stretch as they made both their game-tying and game-winning runs.
There was a noticeable absence of UA players diving on the floor, really going after the ball, and afterwards Miller pointed that out as one thing his team could have done to change the outcome of the game.
“Really at the end there’s six to eight plays in that game, loose balls, a 50-50 ball, a defensive rebound, an offensive rebound where the ball’s kind of traveling through our hands, and I thought Oregon got more of those plays,” the UA head coach said.
“And in a game like the one we just played in, that really, in many ways, can decide it. Did we make a lot of great plays? No doubt. Those six to eight rebounds, scrum for the ball, ball’s loose, ball’s at the top of the key, and ball’s around the rim, it’s on the baseline, it just seemed like they were better than us in those plays. And it’s tough because we played with great effort, certainly played well enough to win, but we didn’t.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that as the team begins to prepare for Oregon State, Miller and company will be harping on them to sell out just a little bit more.
The Wildcats’ senior big man was missing in a big way on Thursday night.
Jeter did not score a single point and registered just 1 rebound against the Ducks, while struggling equally on the defensive side of the floor as well.
He sat out for most of crunch time and his ineffective performance was summed up by Miller, who kept it simple afterwards.
”He didn’t get it done,” the UA head coach said.
With freshmen Christian Koloko emerging as a potential impact player, Miller gave another quote afterwards that could be an indication that Chase needs a quick bounce back against Oregon State if he wants to continue to have a major role in the Wildcats’ rotation:
“We’re only playing guys who are going to help us win the game. If you’re not up to the task, we’ll move on to the next player,” Miller said.