Sean Miller said Saturday night’s matchup with the Oregon Ducks was going to be like March Madness. If that’s the case, Arizona Wildcats fans might be in for another disappointing postseason.
Despite chances to win it at the free throw line in the final seconds of regulation and overtime, No. 24 Arizona lost 73-72 to the 14th-ranked Ducks at McKale Center.
Oregon’s Shakur Juiston scored all nine of Oregon’s points in OT, including the game-winning basket with 1.4 seconds remaining.
Arizona (19-8, 9-5) had a chance to win when Christian Koloko was fouled after catching a full-court pass in the paint but the freshman missed both free throws. Fellow freshman Josh Green missed two foul shots with 2.5 seconds in regulation after the Ducks (21-7, 10-5) tie the game on two Payton Pritchard free throws with 23 seconds to go.
Pritchard scored a career-high 38 points on 12-of-27 shooting, dropping 20 in the first half and 18 in the second. Juiston had 14 on 6-of-9 shooting while the rest of Oregon was 8 of 25 from the field.
Dylan Smith led Arizona with 18 points, hitting 4 of 8 from 3, while Nico Mannion and Zeke Nnaji had 13 and Stone Gettings added 11.
Arizona, which entered the game second in the Pac-12 in free throw shooting at 73.3 percent, was 10 of 21 from the line. The Wildcats also turned it over 14 times, six in the final seven minutes of regulation.
It was eerily similar to how Arizona couldn't hold a lead late in Eugene in January, eventually falling 74-73 in OT.
Tied at 64 after regulation, Oregon took its first lead since the opening minute of the second half on a Juiston layup with 4:32 left. A putback dunk by Juiston gave the Ducks a 68-65 edge with 3:12 left but Arizona retook the lead at 70-69 on a 3-point play by Zeke Nnaji with 2:12 to go.
Juiston’s drive put Oregon back on top 71-70 with 59 seconds remaining but then Smith hit a floater with 29.6 to go for Arizona’s final points prior to Juiston’s game winner.
Arizona twice built 7-point leads in the second half but couldn’t pull away, partly because of Pritchard’s heroics but just as much because of its own issues. The Wildcats turned it over four times in the last 2:16.
The Wildcats’ last points in regulation came on a Gettings jumper with 3:27 to go, after which they only attempted three shots (all by Smith).
Pritchard scored six straight points from the line to tie it with 23 seconds to go, leaving Arizona enough time for the game-winning score. Green had a chance to win it when he was fouled hard with 2.5 seconds remaining but he missed both free throws, then after Oregon threw it away with one second to go the Wildcats couldn’t get off a shot before the clock hit zero.
Oregon led 36-33 at the half thanks to one of Pritchard’s many long 3s falling with 36.5 seconds to go. The opening 20 minutes saw the teams combine to hit 14 triples as the lead changed 12 times and it was tied on five occasions, with never more than a 4-point margin.
Arizona went up 49-42 lead on a Smith 3-pointer with 13:15 left, the Wildcats’ sixth make in 10 tries to start the second half. But then Pritchard hit a 3 over Christian Koloko and both Francis Okoro and Juiston scored on putbacks to tie it at 49 with 10:26 left.
A 9-2 run put Arizona up 58-51 with 7:31 to go, with the chance to make the lead even bigger after Oregon’s C.J. Walker stepped on the sideline, but instead the Wildcats strung together three really bad possessions to let the Ducks back in it.
Arizona’s loss, combined with Colorado’s home loss to UCLA earlier Saturday, left ASU alone in first place with a 10-4 mark following its 74-73 win over Oregon State. The Wildcats are tied for second in the loss column with Colorado, Oregon and UCLA.
The Wildcats head out on their final road trip on Thursday when they play at USC.