No. 3 Arizona falls to Oregon 64-57
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Arizona guard Nick Johnson was keeping an eye on the big picture.
Sure, the No. 3 Wildcats fell 64-57 in the regular-season finale Saturday to the Oregon Ducks, but the postseason was about to start.
“I think we’re as motivated as we can be,” said Johnson, who had 11 points in the loss as the Wildcats struggled with their shooting. “Everybody in that locker room wants to win every single game. We’ve had a great season. We’ve only lost three games.”
Aaron Gordon had 21 points for the Wildcats (28-3, 15-3), who had already clinched the Pac-12 regular-season title heading into next week’s conference tournament in Las Vegas.
Jason Calliste made the go-ahead jumper and free throw with 4:22 left and finished with 18 points for the Ducks (22-8, 10-8), who greatly improved their chances of an NCAA tournament bid. Johnathan Loyd added 16 points for Oregon’s seventh straight win.
The Ducks won 13 straight to start the season and got ranked as high as No. 10, then they lost eight of their next 10 to tumble out of the poll and fall in the Pac-12 standings.
But the six-game winning streak going into Saturday’s game put them back in the NCAA tournament conversation and gave them their fourth straight season with at least 20 victories.
Arizona knew they were facing a team that was on a mission.
“They were a highly motivated group,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “We weren’t at our best and I give Oregon a lot of credit for that.”
The Wildcats led by as many as 12 points in the first half, but Oregon closed to 31-29 at halftime. Mike Moser’s 3-pointer got the Ducks within 36-34 early in the second half.
A six-point run put Arizona ahead 44-36 with 11:55 left and the Wildcats held on to the lead until Joseph Young’s 3-pointer got the Ducks within 50-48 and Johnathan Loyd’s layup tied it at 50 with five minutes left.
Calliste hit a jumper and a free throw to give the Ducks a 53-51 lead with 4:22 left for their first lead since the game’s opening minute.
Calliste and Loyd hit back-to-back 3s to stretch the lead to 59-51 and the 12,364 fans at Matthew Knight Arena were on their feet. The Ducks held on for the win and the crowd rushed the court.
“The exciting thing is, if we can play well enough, there’s still a lot more basketball there for us,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said.
Arizona had won five straight since a 69-66 overtime loss to rival Arizona State on Feb. 14.
Oregon went into the game averaging a league-best 82.9 points a game, while the Wildcats were holding opponents to a league-low 58.5 points per game.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 9-2 lead that was snapped by Loyd’s steal and fast-break layup for the Ducks. The Wildcats made it 20-8 on Nick Johnson’s dunk midway through the first half.
Joseph Young’s layup pulled Oregon within 24-18, but Caleb Tarczewski answered with a dunk for the Wildcats.
Oregon pulled to 31-29 at the half on Calliste’s 3-pointer with 3 seconds to go before the break.
“The second half, they brought it to us,” Johnson said of the Ducks. “They got shots when they needed them.”
Arizona defeated Oregon 67-65 in Tucson on Feb. 6. It was Arizona’s first full game without sophomore forward Brandon Ashley, who is out for the season after surgery on his right foot.