No. 3 Arizona battles for hard-fought 84-81 win over Oregon
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Kerr Kriisa had tossed a few ugly bricks toward the rim in the minutes before his biggest shooting opportunity of the night.
Then he sized up a 25-footer as the shot clock was winding down, splashed home the 3-pointer, and the Arizona Wildcats were on their way to winning their eighth straight game.
Bennedict Mathurin scored 24 points, Kriisa hit his crucial 3 with 1:26 remaining and No. 3 Arizona beat Oregon 84-81 on Saturday.
“I’m proud of our guys for hanging in there and winning a close game,” Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd said. “We haven’t had a lot of those.”
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’s got belief, he’s got confidence,” Lloyd said.
The Wildcats didn’t trail again, hitting enough of their free throws to stave off Oregon’s final charge. The Ducks had a chance to tie on their final possession but Will Richardson was called for traveling as time expired.
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) has a 15-game winning streak at home dating to 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 has lost three of four. Quincy Guerrier added 21 points and made six 3-pointers. N’Faly Dante had 13 points and 15 rebounds.
It wasn’t quite enough for the Ducks (17-10, 10-6), who were swept in Arizona after also losing to Arizona State on Thursday night.
“A couple bad plays late,” coach Dana Altman said. “Guys played hard. In the second half, we had a few opportunities to open up a little gap and didn’t do it. Just didn’t get it done.”
Arizona took its first lead of the second half when Koloko made a jumper at the free-throw line for a 55-54 advantage. Kriisa added a 3-pointer and Mathurin made a tough layup in the paint to push the lead to 60-54, capping a 13-0 run.
Oregon had a terrific offensive start, making 13 of 21 shots to take a 32-20 lead midway through the first half. Arizona stormed back with a 10-0 run as the shooting excellence continued for both teams.
“They’re a formidable opponent,” Lloyd said of Oregon. “They’ve been a little up and down this year, but we know their ceiling is really high.”
The Ducks had a 47-45 halftime lead and the Wildcats trailed despite shooting nearly 71% before the break. Richardson led Oregon with 16 points while Mathurin had 11 for Arizona.
GONZAGA AND ARIZONA
Lloyd is in his first season leading Arizona after 20 years as an assistant for coach Mark Few at Gonzaga.
Now the two teams are probably going to 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, making room for Arizona to climb.
Lloyd was asked postgame if he thought it was “weird, good or cool” that his current and former teams were in that situation.
“Probably all those things,” Lloyd said, smiling. “You probably answered your own question. Weird, cool, awesome — I’m proud of those guys, they’ve got a great team. They’re family, and I think they’re happy for us.”
Oregon: Not many teams can match Arizona’s offensive pace but Oregon looked just fine trading buckets with the Wildcats. The Ducks are going through a tough stretch but certainly have the talent to challenge anyone when the Pac-12 Tournament comes. Still, there’s little doubt it was a lost opportunity for a team on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Arizona: The Wildcats shook off Oregon’s hot shooting and won their eighth straight game. It’s a deep team that can get its offense from a lot of places. Many pundits believe Mathurin is going to be a very good NBA player and Saturday’s game certainly showed that talent.
Oregon: Hosts UCLA on Thursday night.
Arizona: At Utah on Thursday night.
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