The Arizona Wildcats (13-5, 4-1) suffered their first Pac-12 loss of the season Thursday, falling to the Oregon Ducks 59-54 in a defensive struggle.
Our recap, which focuses on Arizona’s rough night offensively, can be read here. Here are some additional takeaways.
Randolph’s streak over
Even though Brandon Randolph has been a streaky shooter this season, that had not prevented him from being a consistent scorer. Entering Thursday’s game, the sophomore had scored in double figures in every game this season.
That finally changed against Oregon, who limited Randolph to just five points on nine shots. Sean Miller had a serious problem with Arizona’s shot selection, and while he did not name any names, he later said that Randolph has to “do a better job of helping himself.”
“We felt that,” Miller said. “Oregon was able to really take him out of things and it made for a tough night.”
Randolph is shooting just .350/.375/1.000 in Pac-12 play. As Arizona’s highest usage player, he has to start finding his groove if the Wildcats are going to become a decent offensive team and win the Pac-12 title/make the NCAA Tournament.
Right now they rank 123rd in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom. They have never finished worse than 87th under Miller.
Emmanuel Akot was a starter and averaging 19.4 minutes per game before he decided to transfer after the Bay Area road trip, so somebody was going to see an uptick in playing time with him gone.
Here were the noticeable changes within the frontcourt:
- Ira Lee played 18 minutes Thursday, four above his season average.
- Ryan Luther started and played 24 minutes, about three minutes above his season average.
- Dylan Smith, who played some 4, actually saw his minutes decrease, playing 17, about four below his season average.
- Chase Jeter played 31 minutes, five above his season average.
Unfortunately for Arizona, power forward continued to be black hole for this team. Luther went 0 for 5 from 3 and committed four turnovers. And while Smith’s stat line looks decent — eight points and two rebounds — you have to consider that he scored six of his eight points in the final 1:24. Most of the game he was a non-factor or, even worse, a liability.
At one point, he was matched up against 6-foot-10 Miles Norris, which seems unfair.
At least Lee continues to play well, posting nine points, the third-most on the team. He had a few explosive plays, including a pair of dunks and a vicious block from behind.
Coleman goes cold
Justin Coleman had a terrific road trip against the Bay Area schools, averaging 11 points and 4.5 assists per game last weekend.
Miller tried to reinforce that by showing the UA point guard video clips of all the things he did well on that trip Monday, but it did not work.
Coleman played arguably his worst game as a Wildcat against Oregon, with three points, five rebounds, four assists and four turnovers in 32 minutes. His aggression tailed off considerably, as all four shots he took came from 3. He made one, and it was the very first shot of the game.
It was unclear if Oregon forward Kenny Wooten (jaw) was going to play Thursday, but he did, adorning a Rip Hamilton-style mask.
It was his first appearance since Dec. 21, and having him back in the lineup was huge for the Ducks, quite literally. The 6-foot-9 forward was a key reason the Wildcats shot just 7 for 15 on layups, as he used his length to block one shot and challenge several others. Plus, he grabbed seven rebounds in 25 minutes.
“It’s weird when he’s not out there and when he’s out there, you see somebody jumping 100 feet in the air,” Oregon’s Victor Bailey Jr. told reporters after the game. “It’s always good to have Kenny out there.”
Oregon State could present a similar challenge Saturday in the form junior college transfer Kylor Kelley, who has the highest shot-blocking percentage in the country.
One of the most surprising things about this game was Alex Barcello checking in before Devonaire Doutrive and then playing 11 minutes, his most since Dec. 6 against Utah Valley.
He earned it, though. Barcello posted a team-best +16 plus/minus, sinking a 3, grabbing two rebounds, and swiping a steal.
If there was another positive in this game it was that Arizona won the rebounding battle, 40-35, using a team effort.
Jeter led the way with 10 rebounds, while Randolph and Coleman each had five and Brandon Williams had seven.
Not in the zone
Stop me if you have heard this before: Arizona struggled against a zone defense. Oregon forced 14 turnovers and held the Wildcats to 37 percent shooting, their worst offensive performance of the season.
Miller has actually liked how Arizona’s zone offense has been coming along this season, but Oregon’s seemed to catch them off guard.
“We’ve really done a good job against a lot of our recent zones that we’ve faced. We have. We moved (the ball), we’ve gotten away from taking threes, we’ve converted some of those tough 3s into drives and free throw attempts. But tonight, and you have to give Oregon credit, their defense is a little different,” Miller said.
“We were out of sorts and we never could really get into a rhythm. A couple of our guys had tough nights shooting. That’s part of it. But a tough night shooting has nothing to do with the 14 turnovers and five bad shots in the first half, and we probably took a couple more in the second half. Our shot selection, our ball movement and our turnovers were much better in the second half than the first half, but clearly our offense was a problem here tonight.”
No longer the favorites
KenPom projected Arizona to beat Oregon and win the Pac-12 with a 13-5 record, but now the Wildcats are projected to come in second behind Washington with a 12-6 record.
In other words, the Wildcats missed out on a big opportunity to affirm themselves as the favorite in the conference.
Now, the second- through five-place teams are all separated by a game or less, while Washington stands alone as the conference’s lone unbeaten team, looking like the clear-cut team to beat.
Arizona and Oregon State both entered Thursday without a conference loss, but now they will be battling each other Saturday hoping to avoid a sweep.
The Beavers lost to ASU, 70-67, in Tempe, almost clawing their way back from an 18-point second-half deficit.