Tucson, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off their first loss of the season, the second-ranked Arizona Wildcats will try to start anew as they welcome the Oregon Ducks to the McKale Center for Thursday's Pac-12 Conference clash.
Oregon had begun the season at 13-0, but losses in five straight and six of the last eight games has the team at 15-6 overall, which includes a disappointing 3-6 league ledger. The Ducks took down visiting USC last Saturday in their most recent outing, 78-66, and they've actually won two of their last three. They are an even 3-3 in true road games.
Arizona was cruising right along as the No. 1 team in the land, but a 60-58 loss at California last Saturday put an end to its 21-game win streak. The Wildcats have won all 14 home games this season, and have a 17-game home win streak overall, dating back to last season. UA is 8-1 in conference, and currently holds a two-game lead over second-place squads UCLA and California.
Arizona owns a 45-25 lead in the all-time series with Oregon, but the Ducks have won the last two meetings. The teams will close out the regular season against each other in Eugene on March 8.
This game pits the Pac-12's most potent offense against its stingiest defense, as Oregon comes in averaging 84.7 ppg while Arizona yields only 56.8 ppg.
The Ducks boast four double-digit scorers, led by Joseph Young and his 18.1 ppg. Help comes from Mike Moser (13.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Jason Calliste (12.5 ppg,) and Damyean Dotson (10.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg), while Johnathan Loyd (5.5 apg) serves as the team's primary playmaker. Moser is just two points shy of becoming a member of the 1,000-point club, joining both Young and Calliste who have already reached the milestone. Oregon's effort at the defensive end leaves something to be desired, as it allows 75.4 ppg, although it does goad the opposition into an average of 14.5 turnovers per outing. The Ducks lead the league and rank second nationally with a .782 free-throw percentage, thanks in part to Young's impressive 107-of-120 effort.
Young hit for 21 points, Calliste 18 more, and Moser 13 in Oregon's recent win over USC. Neither team shot well from long range, combining to go a dismal 8-of-35 (.228). The Ducks used a 22-14 edge in points from the foul line, coupled with the fact that they set a new Matthew Knight Arena record with 16 steals, six of which were credited to Young, to help push them past the Trojans.
As mentioned, Arizona's strength lies in its ability to shut down the opposition, as it permits just 37.6 percent success on field goal attempts, which includes a 29.8 percent showing from beyond the arc. Furthermore, the Wildcats lead the nation in 2-point field goal percentage defense (.404), and they take advantage of nearly 13 turnovers per outing. Nick Johnson (16.1 ppg) spearheads the club's offensive attack, and support comes in the form of Aaron Gordon (11.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Brandon Ashley (11.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg). Kaleb Tarczewski (9.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is close to joining the double-digit hit parade, while T.J. McConnell has handed out 123 assists and logged 41 steals. As a team, the 'Cats are putting up 73.5 ppg in hitting 47.3 percent of their total shots.
Tarczewski scored 18 points, the bulk of which came as a result of his perfect 12-of-12 performance at the free-throw line, but that effort went for naught as Arizona suffered its first loss of the season at California last weekend. McConnell tacked on 13 points, but failed to record a helper, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson contributed 10 points off the bench, and Gordon grabbed 13 of the team's 41 rebounds, while dishing out six of the club's nine assists. The Wildcats shot a woeful 32.3 percent from the floor, missing nine of their 11 3-point tries along the way.