No. 14 Oregon will be battling to stay in the race for the Pac-12 regular-season title when it plays at No. 24 Arizona on Saturday night in Tucson, Ariz.
The Ducks (20-7, 9-5 Pac-12) are coming off a 77-72 loss at Arizona State on Thursday night, dropping out of a first-place tie with Colorado. Oregon trails the Buffaloes, Arizona and ASU, who each have four conference losses. UCLA is also 9-5.
If the Ducks lose at McKale Center on Saturday night, they would be two down in the loss column, with only three games left for Oregon. Only the top four teams in the conference get a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.
“Oregon is the preseason favorite in our conference,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller. “They have no fear. They play hard. … The game on Saturday is like March Madness.”
Arizona (19-7, 9-4) has won three consecutive games, including Thursday night’s 89-63 romp over Oregon State. The Wildcats forced 21 turnovers and snapped out of a shooting slump in which they had made only 24 of 100 3-pointers across five games.
Arizona connected on 10 of 21 against the Beavers, including 2 of 3 from wing Josh Green, who finished with a team-high 18 points, to go with six assists, four rebounds and four steals. He’s not a pure shooter (31.5 percent on 3-pointers for the season) but is a projected first-round talent because of his athleticism, especially turning defense into transition opportunities.
“Nobody is more explosive than him,” Miller said.
“Josh can do it a lot of ways. He can do it with the ball. He can do it running wide. He’s had some of our best passes in transition this year. He’s not always the recipient. Sometimes he’s the giver, the player that makes the clever play.
“No doubt, when the game gets going fast, Josh is really at ease.”
Oregon never led against the Sun Devils and was down 12 early in the second half before pulling into a 54-54 tie with 7:17 to go. But the Ducks committed 16 turnovers for the game and missed the front end of two one-and-one free-throw situations after drawing even.
“Our turnovers led to 19 points, which is really bad and you can’t go on the road and shoot 12-of-19 at the free-throw line,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman. “I’m really proud of the guys for fighting back, but when we got it there, we weren’t tough enough to finish it.”
The Ducks have a potential All-American and the leading candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year in point guard Payton Pritchard, who finished with 18 points but fouled out with 2:15 to go. Oregon is looking for more from its big men, as freshman N’Faly Dante missed his ninth consecutive game because of a knee injury. He practiced on Tuesday, so a return seems close.
Pritchard had 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists when the Ducks rallied to beat Arizona 74-73 in overtime in Eugene on Jan. 9. The Wildcats came up short after having shots to win at the end of regulation and overtime, and Pritchard stole an inbounds pass with 2.1 seconds left.
–Field Level Media