Arizona and Oregon Collide in Marquee Pac-12 Matchup

The spotlight will once again take center stage in Eugene, Oregon Saturday afternoon as the Ducks host the Wildcats. Oregon is familiar with the big stage after handing then No.2 UCLA and USC their first losses of the season to open Pac-12 play. Arizona is on a 14-game win streak, and the mark could hit 15 before Saturday’s contest with a game against Oregon State Thursday. This matchup has the makings of another classic in what will undoubtedly come down to the wire.

Oregon saw their 17-game win streak end after losing to Colorado on the road. Sloppy play, along with a season-high 25 fouls, kept the Ducks winless in Boulder (0-7). Three Ducks’ players fouled out to make any comeback attempt difficult. The loss should serve as a message to the players as Oregon’s recent play had the makings for an upset. Credit coach Tad Boyle for his squad once again being the Ducks’ kryptonite in Boulder.

Before Oregon’s loss at Colorado, the team barely escaped Utah on the road prevailing 73-67. A 15-4 run in the second half helped the Ducks gain separation from the Utes in a close game. However, the Ducks had to fend off a late rally to secure the win. Dillon Brooks paced Oregon with 19 points, but will probably be known for his flop in the game. Basketball should be Brooks’ focus, not being an actor.

Head coach Dana Altman will look to build confidence for Oregon with Arizona State coming before the big matchup against Arizona. Without a doubt, Altman has put together a Ducks’ team capable of making a run in the NCAA Tournament. Despite the team showing flashes of brilliance, chemistry is still building amongst the players. Hope is for the Ducks to be clicking when the tournament arrives.

In what appeared to be shaping up as a three-way race for the conference title now stands at two. Arizona and Oregon will battle for the regular season title after UCLA suffered back-to-back losses against Arizona and USC. UCLA is 7-3 in conference play while Arizona and Oregon are 9-0 and 8-1 in conference play respectively.

As the second half gets underway in conference play, Arizona has been playing sound basketball since a loss to Gonzaga in preseason play. Despite facing a tough test on the road against Cal, the team has shown no signs of weakness. Freshman Lauri Markkanen leads the Wildcats averaging 16.8 per game.

Even with Markkanen leading the way, the Wildcats are about to get more lethal offensively. Sophomore Allonzo Trier is back in the fold after questions arose about his eligibility to start the season. Reports indicated Trier missed time due to taking performance-enhancing drugs. The Arizona Atheltic Department cleared him for inadvertently using the performance-enhancing drugs, and his return came at a good time. Trier contributed 12 points in Arizona’s upset win over UCLA.

Trier and Markkanen are not the only two Oregon must keep in check. Kobi Simmons, Rawle Akins, and Kadeem Allen are all averaging double-digits in scoring for Arizona’s potent offense. Defensively, Allen is averaging 1.4 steals per game. Ball control will be critical for Oregon to stay in the match.

Turnovers have been an issue all season for Oregon. Should the inconsistencies remain, Arizona could walk out of Eugene with their conference play unbeaten mark intact. But the turnover issue is not the only problem as other players on Oregon need to step up. Brooks’ may be Oregon’s stalwart, but the supporting cast of Chris Boucher, Dylan Ennis, Tyler Dorsey, and Casey Benson must be consistent.

Defensively, Arizona faces a tough task as Oregon has been able to secure wins from solid defense. Bell is grabbing 7.5 rebounds per game and averaging 1.3 steals per game. Boucher has been the anchor of the Ducks’ defense with 2.8 blocks per game. Overall, the senior has 56 blocks this season.

With Pac-12 supremacy on the line, expect this game to come down in the final minute. The Pit Crew will have Matthew Knight Arena loud in efforts to keep Arizona off their game. Oregon will not make a return trip to Arizona as the two only play one game in the regular season. Both could meet again in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship game to ultimately decide who reigns supreme in the Pac-12. Regardless of the outcome, expect a spirited contest between the two teams.

Leave a Reply