After losing at home to the UCLA Bruins two weeks ago, the Wildcats got payback on Friday as they beat UCLA 86-75 in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals.
Arizona atoned for its senior day loss, plus Sean Miller gave Steve Alford a taste of his own medicine by calling a timeout with one second left in a game that was already out of reach, allowing the Wildcats to soak in their victory for a few more moments.
Alford did the same to Arizona when UCLA won in McKale Center.
“I love Kadeem Allen, and we didn't end his senior night the right way,” Miller said after the game. “Tonight was about making sure that we paid Kadeem back. And I just wanted him to know how much we love him, how much we appreciate him, how hard he plays. I mean, he had people driving from the state of North Carolina to Arizona for that game, and it didn't work out. He ended up shooting a basketball on the last play. A lot's made of that when you miss that shot, and he was playing with a finger that most people wouldn't even bother to play. So I wanted him to know how much we loved him.”
As far as Miller’s late timeout ...
“I think we learned from UCLA in that game just making sure your team is poised moving forward when they called their timeout late that we wanted to do the same thing,” he said. “Make sure our team was poised moving forward.”
Part one of Arizona’s revenge tour is complete, but now comes the second, more challenging leg of it. The Wildcats will face the top-seeded Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Of course, the Ducks gashed the Wildcats 85-58 in Eugene back in early February in what was the lone matchup between the two teams in the regular season.
It was Arizona’s second-worst loss in the Sean Miller-era.
“[Saturday] we’ll have an opportunity to show that we improved as a team from that game,” Arizona center Dusan Ristic said. “I think we’ll be ready. We have a little less than 24 hours to get prepared for the game, and we’re all excited for that game.”
Oregon shot 16 for 25 from 3 and 65 percent from the field in its win over Arizona at Matthew Knight Arena, leaving the Wildcats with the same powerless feeling they had against the Sam Dekker- and Frank Kaminsky-led Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA Tournament a couple years ago.
“I mean, they have to miss a few shots, man,” Miller said of the key to Saturday’s matchup. “They went on a roll like I've never seen before. I wasn't even helpless. There was just nothing you could do. They made, I think, 16 of 21 at one point. And one of the ones they missed, Jordan Bell heaved one up at the end of the half. I thought that was going in. So we have to defend the 3-point shot.
While Arizona’s defense had a miserable day against Oregon’s offense in Eugene, its offense wasn’t much better. The Wildcats shot 43 percent from the field and 5 of 17 from 3.
“They're an outstanding defensive team,” Miller said, complimenting the Ducks. “They do it in a different way (than UCLA). We have to execute like we did tonight. I think a lot was made in our last UCLA game about our inability against the zone. Tonight, our ability against the zone was a big turning point in terms of winning or losing. We executed really well against their zone.
“Oregon has a different type of switching, man-to-man match-up zone, and hopefully we can do the same thing. Learning from the first game, executing better, putting [Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier] in more of a better position to score. Look, anyone who plays Oregon has their hands full.”
Markkanen and Trier have been a lethal 1-2 punch in the Pac-12 Tournament so far. Markkanen is averaging 24.5 points per game, while Trier is averaging 19.5.
But in Eugene, the two combined for just 16 points on 15 shots.
“We want to get our revenge,” Markkanen said. “It was the same thing with UCLA.”
One game down, and one more to go for the vengeful Wildcats.
“We know our journey is not over yet. This was a great win for us, but we know that the bigger picture is to win a championship and we’re not too high on ourselves. We’re still focused and humble,” said Rawle Alkins, before he subtly made a prediction for Saturday’s game.
“And hopefully tomorrow after we win it’s going to be a different feeling.”
How to watch Saturday’s game
Time: 9 p.m. MST
Live stream: WatchESPN
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