The Arizona Wildcats (17-12, 8-8) will try to stay hot as the Pac-12 Tournament approaches, when they will go for their fourth straight win Saturday against the Oregon Ducks (16-12, 7-8).
Tip-off at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene is set for 8 p.m. MST on ESPN2.
Oregon won the first meeting 59-54 in Tucson, and here are some things to watch for in the rematch.
Just as the Wildcats returned to full health, they were bitten by the injury bug Thursday when Chase Jeter got tangled up with Tres Tinkle and suffered a bone bruise in the second half of UA’s win at Oregon State.
Jeter returned to the game, but it was a brief stay. The big man was pulled once it was obvious his injury was hindering his mobility.
Which begs the question: How much better shape can he possibly be in just two days later?
Even without Bol Bol, Oregon’s frontcourt of Kenny Wooten, Paul White and Louis King is dangerous and it is unlikely Arizona can survive if Jeter is sidelined or severely limited. Remember how bad they looked when he sat out against the LA schools?
Not to mention Jeter led Arizona in scoring (12) and rebounds (7) when the Ducks won in McKale in January.
Oregon’s zone and full-court pressure
Arizona had a nightmarish time navigating Oregon’s zone last time around. The Wildcats shot 37 percent and committed 14 turnovers, being held to just 54 points.
“Their style won out on that particular night,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “Neither team scored well, but our turnovers really jumped off the page. When you play against Oregon, number one they always play incredibly hard, they mix in their full-court pressure and you have to be able to handle that full court pressure and take care of the basketball. We weren’t able to do that on that night and that was the difference in the game.”
Miller noted after that game that that was the first time most of Arizona’s players had faced Oregon’s zone and perhaps that was the reason it presented so many problems. After all, the Wildcats have generally been good at limiting turnovers this season.
So maybe they will do a better job this time around now that they have that experience under their belt.
Then again, Oregon has the second-best defense in the Pac-12 for a reason and it won’t be surprising if it locks down the Wildcats again.
Are the Brandons back?
Brandon Randolph looked like a different player Thursday against Oregon State, and I am not talking about his new hairstyle.
The sophomore poured in 15 points, his highest total since Jan. 31 and his fourth-highest total in Pac-12 play. He went 7 for 8 from the field, easily his most efficient performance of the season.
That came after he scored 10 points against Stanford, snapping a brutal five-game slump in which he failed to score in double figures.
Not coincidentally his two most recent outbursts coincide with Brandon Williams’ return. The freshman’s ability to score takes some attention away from Randolph, while his ability to distribute only helps Randolph get more quality looks.
Arizona is an average offensive team at best, but it has done some good things when the Brandons are clicking at the same time. UA’s offensive efficiency against OSU (119.5) was its highest since the loss to ASU.
A lot of things have to happen for Arizona to earn a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament as our Brian Pedersen thoroughly outlined here. The very first thing is beating Oregon. If the Wildcats fall to the Ducks, their slim chance of earning that bye will be totally gone.
If the season ended today, Arizona would be the No. 7 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, but it can still finish as high as second and as low as 10th.
Oregon, also with eight conference losses, is pretty much in the same boat so the result of Saturday’s game could have a big say in whether or not these teams can make a magical run in Las Vegas and steal an NCAA Tournament bid.
This is one of the youngest teams Dana Altman has had at Oregon, evidenced by the fact the Ducks will only have two seniors to honor after Saturday’s game, Paul White and Ehab Amin
Neither have been at Oregon very long.
Amin is a graduate transfer from Texas A&M Corpus-Christi, while White has spent the last two seasons in Eugene after transferring in from Georgetown.
Amin is most known for an all-around skill set, as he is one of just four active players in the NCAA with 1,000 career points, 500 career rebounds, 200 career assists and 200 career steals.
White is a stretch four, shooting 37 percent from 3. He had 16 points on 10 shots against Arizona back in January.
Freshman wing Devonaire Doutrive was the hero for Arizona on Thursday, flipping in an offensive rebound at the buzzer for the win in Corvallis, and maybe he can be the difference-maker in Eugene.
Doutrive only played six minutes when the Ducks beat the Wildcats in January.
Bill Walton and Dave Pasch (is that his name?) are calling this game, so we are in for a treat no matter what happens on the court.