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Arizona basketball: Wildcats look to bounce back, keep perspective after blowout loss to Oregon

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The Wildcats were embarrassed in Eugene, but their end goals remain in sight

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

There was nothing the Arizona Wildcats could do.

Even when their defense was sharp, Oregon’s 3-pointers kept falling.

“Last time we had a feeling like this,” UA head coach Sean Miller said, “I would say would have been the second half of the Wisconsin game in the Elite Eight a couple years ago. Same thing. They caught fire and couldn’t miss and you know the result when that happens.”

The result wasn’t a season-ending loss to the Badgers this time, but it was a disheartening defeat in its own right — the Ducks cruised to an 85-58 blowout win as they shot 16-of-25 from 3.

“They shot like an NBA team,” said UA guard Rawle Alkins. “It was just one of those nights.”

It was the second-worst loss in Miller’s tenure at Arizona, but the head coach left Matthew Knight Arena disappointed, not upset.

“Sometimes you have to give credit to the opponent and realize that it wasn’t lack of effort,” he said. “It wasn’t lack of preparation, they had some answers. They’re an excellent team. And I think we played an excellent team I hope it’s their best. If they have another level above that, that’s a bad thing for every team in the country but they played great. We didn’t have any answers today.”

The Wildcats kept the game within single-digits for the first 10 minutes or so, but then the floodgates opened. Behind a flurry of 3s, the Ducks took a 20-point lead at the half.

“In the first half, especially in the first 10 minutes of the game, I looked at our defense as being very organized,” Miller said. “We didn’t have breakdowns. There wasn’t a lot of transition 3s, maybe one. Most of the 3s they hit, they earned it with their offense, but we contested them, especially Tyler Dorsey. He was incredible.”

Dorsey — a former Arizona commit — hit all six of his 3-point attempts, one of which put the Wildcats down by 28 with still 14 minutes to play.

By then, the game was all but over.

The Ducks’ hot shooting carried over into the second half and the Wildcats’ confidence was crushed.

“It starts to affect your offense. It starts to affect everything,” said Miller, whose team shot 43 percent against Oregon’s matchup zone. “Sometimes you almost can’t run as fast as you normally do because it’s a feeling you usually don’t have because nothing’s going right.”

But even if things were going right for the Wildcats, they still likely would have fallen short. The Ducks shot 65 percent from the field.

“I know when our team doesn’t play hard. Our effort wasn’t the problem today,” Miller said. “It was certainly execution and at times when I thought we did have some good execution, we missed a couple (shots). Today, we needed to play great. In my opinion, if we would’ve played great, it still wouldn’t have been enough today because of how well they played. I don’t think it was, on our end, a lack of anything. I think it was, on their end, a great performance. It will be interesting to see where they go from here, but the thing we control is where we go.”

But where do the Wildcats, who hadn’t lost by more than 10 points since the 2012-13 season, go from here?

“Bounce back,” said Alkins.

“I think a perspective is what’s next,” added Miller.

“And that is that we’re 21-3 and we’re 10-1 in the Pac-12. We’ve played some great basketball and the team we just got beat by has an identical record.

“Right now, the season didn’t end. It’s not spring. It’s so much about putting this behind us to some degree, learning from it, getting better because it happened.”

An Arizona team that was just riding a 15-game winning streak is suddenly at the lowest of its lows, with plenty to correct as it approaches its last seven conference games.

But while a 27-point loss is unprecedented for the Wildcats, it also shouldn’t overshadow how they got to being the fifth-ranked team in the first place.

“You can’t undo the 23 games we’ve played,” Miller said. “We’ve lost at Oregon. We lost to Gonzaga in L.A. with a lot going against us at that point. And we lost to Butler in Las Vegas. We’ve won 21 games. It’s about game 25 now.

“I’m disappointed that the game ended the way it did, but in the long journey of the season, you have those peaks and valleys and if this is our valley, we have to pick ourselves up off the mat and be ready to go when we get back.”

Arizona hosts Stanford and Cal next week with a chance to hit the reset button. Oregon, meanwhile, travels to L.A. to take on UCLA and USC in what is the conference’s most difficult road trip.

The Ducks are the class of the Pac-12 at the moment — Miller even admitted so in his postgame interview — but a week from now that might not be the case should they drop a game in SoCal.

So, as demoralizing as Arizona’s loss to Oregon appears to be, at least one of its end goals — a Pac-12 title — is still in sight.

“It’s a tie right now between us and Oregon,” Alkins said, “and who knows what’s going to happen from here.”

The Ducks’ 3-point barrage still stings, though, and Arizona’s response to it remains to be seen.

“We’re not looking at this like we’re tolerating this loss,” Alkins said. “We’re upset that we lost. No one’s happy in that locker room over there. We still think that if we played them again tomorrow, we’d still win. That’s how our mindset is. Oregon played great tonight and hopefully we see them again.”


You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire