Halftime couldn’t have come soon enough for Oregon.
Its double-digit lead evaporated over the final six minutes following a 17-3 Arizona run. It could’ve been worse but thanks to a Paul White three-pointer in the final minute, the Ducks went into the break tied at 31.
The second half was a different story as Oregon dominated from start to finish, outscoring the Wildcats by 26 points on the way to a 73-47 victory, a much-needed win to finish off the weekend sweep of the Arizona schools.
“Tonight was our best night of the season,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “Everybody in the boat, everybody rowing the same way, I thought they did a good job.”
Defensively, Oregon (17-12, 8-8 Pac-12) was dominant in the second half, limiting Arizona to 5-of-26 (19.2-percent) from the floor and 1-for-12 (8.3-percent) from behind the arc. The Wildcats’ 47 points were the least amount scored under head coach Sean Miller in a Pac-12 conference game.
“We gave them some really good looks that first half. The second half, I thought we did a much better job talking, transition we didn’t give them easy looks,” Altman said. “Not giving them easy baskets, not giving them those open three’s, I thought that’s what changed the complexion of the game.”
It was a balanced offensive attack for the Ducks as four players scored in double figures, led by freshman big man Francis Okoro. He finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, including a stretch where he scored on three consecutive possessions as the Ducks pounded the ball down low.
Oregon outscored Arizona 36-14 in the paint.
Louis King finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four steals while Payton Pritchard added 12 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Will Richardson came off the bench to score 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
It was a game of runs in the first half as Arizona jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead on two three’s by Dylan Smith (team-high 14 points), holding the Ducks scoreless until Pritchard’s steal and layup broke the ice four minutes in.
Oregon responded with a 13-0 run midway through the half, a unit that featured four freshmen (King, Richardson, Okoro and Miles Norris) and Amin. The Ducks out-hustled the Wildcats over that span, forcing turnovers and getting out in transition for easy buckets — before Arizona’s run to end the half.
“Miles and Will really picked us up,” Altman said of the first half. “They gave us a big lift energy wise… so yeah, I thought they did a really good job.”
The second half started with a bang as the tempo was pushed with each team scoring on its first two possessions. However, Pritchard’s three-pointer on the second possession sparked a 12-0 Oregon run.
Arizona (17-13, 8-9 Pac-12) got the deficit back to single digits following an and-one by Brandon Williams (12 points) before the Ducks went on a 16-2 run to put the game out of reach late in the second half.
The difference for Oregon defensively was the way the Ducks defended the three-point line. After giving up seven made three’s in the opening half because of defensive breakdowns, Altman credited Oregon’s intensity and attention to detail in holding the Wildcats to one three-pointer in the second half.
“We started to see what kind of defensive team we could be,” White said. “This week we were really on the same page defensively and it really carried over to every aspect of our game.”
With the win, Oregon remains 1.5 games out of third place in the Pac-12 — and if Arizona State takes down Oregon State tomorrow, that deficit drops to a game. There are nine Pac-12 teams vying for the second, third and fourth place finishes in the conference, thus guaranteeing a first round bye at the Pac-12 tournament in two weeks.
The Ducks, who now turn their attention to first-place Washington (22-6, 13-2 Pac-12) and Washington State (11-18, 4-12 Pac-12), hit the road for their final series of the season. Oregon plays the Cougars on Wednesday at 8 p.m.