This recap sponsored by Big Frog Custom Tshirts
It wasn’t pretty, but Arizona defeated the Oregon Ducks 90-82 at McKale Center to close out the regular season. The victory clinched the conference championship for Sean Miller and the Wildcats. It is the 12th conference championship for Arizona in the Pac 10 era, two more than second place UCLA.
On offense, Arizona looked great. Kyle Fogg provided an immediate boost by making three straight three pointers to start to the game. The hot shooting from deep continued as Horne, Parrom, Lavendar, Mayes, and Williams all made first half three pointers. In total Arizona made seven treys before halftime. The balance was terrific for the Wildcats, as all ten players who saw the floor in the first half scored. Eight of those players recorded an assist as well.
But it wasn’t all great. Arizona’s defensive effort was poor, as they were regularly beat to the basket. The Wildcats also gave up open looks from deep. The Ducks had five three pointers of their own. Derrick Williams picked up three first half fouls, all while Catron absolutely abused the porous defense on his way to 12 first half points. As a result, the Wildcats only led 41-32 at the half despite their impressive offensive showing.
“Offensively I think we have it figured out,” Miller said. “We have a lot of balance, we can shoot the three, we have that go to player that can change games. What we need to work on more is defense.”
Arizona responded with a 12-4 run to start the second half, which stretched their lead to 17. The Wildcats, who have had trouble closing teams out, were unable to capitalize as Oregon responded with a 13-3 run of their own.
“I coached against Dana Altman when I was at Xavier and he was at Creighton, we had a four game series,” Miller said. “He’s a great coach.”
After that, the lead hovered around 10 points for the rest of the game. The Wildcats couldn’t extend their lead, and Oregon couldn’t quite close the gap. The Ducks were able to cut the lead to six behind five straight Catron points, but the Wildcats hung on making 14-18 free throws down the stretch to clinch the victory.
Catron led all scorers with 28 points. Kyle Fogg led Arizona with 20 points. Derrick Williams and Solomon Hill each added 14. Five Wildcats scored in double figures. Malcolm Armstead had a good showing with 12 points and 11 assists. No Wildcats recorded double digit assists or rebounds, but Arizona outrebounded Oregon 31-24 and had 17 assists to just 9 turnovers.
On Senior Day, Jamelle Horne had a nice game going 3-5 from the field for 10 points. It was the first time Horne reached double digit points since January 9th, when his 16 points were crucial in beating Stanford.
After the victory, the celebration began. Wildcat players ran through Zona Zoo to the cheers of fans. The team also cut down the nets and a tribute video was shown (below).
“Part of the reason I came here was that feeling I got as a player going into McKale Center,” Miller said. “I want to thank the students and the crowd. We have the best fans in the country.”
The victory means Arizona closes out their home schedule undefeated (17-0) for the first time since 98-99. Also, it was their 25th win this season, marking the highest regular season total since 2004-05. Arizona has not won more regular season games since 99-00 (27 wins).
“This isn’t the first Pac-10 Championship,” Miller said to the crowd after the game, “and it won’t be the last.”