November 23, 2022

No. 3 Arizona battles hard-fought win over Oregon

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Kerr Kriisa had thrown a few ugly bricks overboard in the minutes leading up to his biggest shooting opportunity of the night.

Then he measured a 25-footer as the shot clock ran out, splashed the 3-pointer, and the Arizona Wildcats were poised to win their eighth straight game.

Bennedict Mathurin scored 24 points, Kriisa hit his crucial 3 with 1:26 left and No. 3 Arizona beat Oregon 84-81 on Saturday.

“I’m proud of our guys who held on and won a close game,” Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd said. “We haven’t had many.”

It was an entertaining, high-scoring game that featured 16 lead changes in front of a sold-out crowd at the McKale Center. Kriisa’s long 3 pushed Arizona ahead 79-76, earning arguably the biggest roar of the night.

“The kid has faith, he has confidence,” Lloyd said.

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Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin (0) reacts after scoring against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, in Tucson, Arizona.
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Wildcats no longer trailed, making enough of their free throws to avoid Oregon’s final charge. The Ducks had a chance to tie their last possession, but Will Richardson was called to travel when time ran out.

Azuolas Tubelis added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats, and Christian Koloko had 10 points and eight rebounds.

Arizona (24-2, 14-1 Pac-12) is on a 15-game winning streak at home since last season. The Wildcats also snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Ducks.

“It was really fun,” Mathurin said. “The crowd was going crazy. It was a really good experience.”

Richardson scored 22 points for Oregon, which lost three of four. Quincy Guerrier added 21 points and made six 3-pointers. N’Faly Dante had 13 points and 15 rebounds.

That wasn’t quite enough for the Ducks (17-10, 10-6), who were swept to Arizona after also losing to Arizona State on Thursday night.

“A few bad late plays,” coach Dana Altman said. “The guys played hard. In the second half we had a few chances to open a small gap and we didn’t. We just didn’t make it.”

Arizona took its first lead of the second half when Koloko jumped off the free throw line for a 55-54 advantage. Kriisa added a 3-pointer and Mathurin made a tough lay-up in the paint to push the lead to 60-54, capping a 13-0 run.

Oregon got off to a great offensive start, making 13 of 21 shots to take a 32-20 lead midway through the first half. Arizona fought back with a 10-0 run as shooting excellence continued for both teams.

“He’s a formidable opponent,” Lloyd said of Oregon. “They’ve had their ups and downs this year, but we know their ceiling is very high.”

The Ducks had a 47-45 halftime lead and the Wildcats trailed despite shooting nearly 71 percent before the break. Richardson led Oregon with 16 points while Mathurin had 11 for Arizona.

GONZAGA AND ARIZONE

Lloyd is in his first season in charge of Arizona after 20 years as coach Mark Few’s assistant at Gonzaga.

Now, both teams will likely be No. 1 and No. 2 when the new AP Top 25 is released on Monday. No. 2 Auburn lost to Florida 63-62 on Saturday, giving way for Arizona to climb.

Lloyd was asked after the game if he thought it was “weird, good or cool” that his current and former teams were in this situation.

“Probably all of those things,” Lloyd said smiling. “You probably answered your own question. Weird, cool, awesome – I’m proud of these guys, they have a great team. They’re family, and I think they’re happy for us.”

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: Few teams can match Arizona’s offensive pace, but Oregon seemed to trade buckets just fine with the Wildcats. The Ducks are going through a tough time, but certainly have the talent to challenge anyone in the Pac-12 tournament. Still, there’s no doubt that this was a lost opportunity for a team in the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Arizona: The Wildcats got rid of Oregon’s hot shot and won their eighth straight game. They are a deep team that can draw their attack from many places. Many pundits believe Mathurin will be a very good NBA player and Saturday’s game certainly showed that talent.

FOLLOWING

Oregon: Hosts UCLA Thursday night.

Arizona: At Utah Thursday night.