AP – The last of Arizona’s record-tying four Pac-12 tournament championships came 13 years ago, and Oregon has won all three of its titles since then.
A day after dispatching their nemesis, the fifth-ranked Wildcats look to become the first team in seven years to win both Pac-12 titles Saturday night against the Ducks.
Arizona (30-3) and UCLA are tied with four conference tournament titles each, but Oregon (25-8) is right behind with its most recent crown coming in 2013.
The Wildcats have lost their last four trips to the title game since winning it in 2002, and they fell short of ending that drought in a 75-71 loss to the Bruins last year.
That was the second straight time they were beaten by UCLA in the tournament, but Arizona got a bit of revenge by defeating its rival 70-64 on Friday.
“So very, very proud of this group,” coach Sean Miller said. “And having said that, we’ve been in a championship game four times in the last five years, and you don’t have to ask me how it feels because we haven’t won it. We know that.”
The last team to win Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles was UCLA in 2008.
Facing the Ducks would appear to be a favorable matchup for Arizona, which won both meetings earlier this season by an average of 26.0 points. The Wildcats’ suffocating defense allowed just 37.9 percent shooting – 25.0 from long range – in those matchups.
“We’re just going to have to compete,” Ducks coach Dana Altman told the school’s official website. “We’ll go into the game pretty loose. They have beaten us bad twice, so our guys will be loose. We’ll tell them to go swing away and have fun with the game.”
Second-seeded Oregon is 11-1 since being hammered 90-56 in Tucson on Jan. 28. The Ducks have also won a season-best seven in a row after Joseph Young hit a long 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to beat No. 17 Utah 67-64 on Friday.
Young, the conference player of the year, leads the Ducks with 20.3 points per game, but he’s been even better in the tournament. The senior guard had 25 points Friday, a day after putting up 30 in a 93-85 win over Colorado.
“We have the utmost confidence in (Young),” freshman Dillon Brooks said to the school’s website. “He’s always the first one in the gym, last one out, taking 3s every time. Once I seen him shoot that shot, I knew it was going in.”
Young, though, has struggled against Arizona, averaging 11.5 points while shooting 32.7 percent in four career meetings.
Elgin Cook led Oregon with 16 points in the most recent, and he’s averaging 17.8 in the past four games.
Finding offensive success against the Wildcats is highly unlikely since they’re allowing just 58.0 points per game during their 10-game winning streak.
Brandon Ashley is averaging 18.8 points in the last four games after scoring 24 on Friday. The junior forward hasn’t been nearly as effective against Oregon, totaling 23 points this season.
Freshman Stanley Johnson has been impressive through the first two games of the tournament, totaling 34 points with 16 rebounds while making 6 of 11 from 3-point range.
Another strong performance from Ashley and Johnson could be just what Arizona needs to win the title and potentially secure at least a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s definitely exciting to be able to end that streak, to be able to win that game and take the championship home with us,” Ashley said. “But at the same time it’s just another game for us.”