AP – Arizona seemed to learn from its first loss, correcting numerous shortcomings in a blowout victory to open conference play.
The seventh-ranked Wildcats will now contend with one of the league’s hottest teams in Oregon, which has gotten the better of the series over the last three seasons.
Arizona looks to avoid a third straight road loss in the series Thursday night when it visits the Ducks.
The Wildcats (13-1, 1-0) had their 39-game non-conference winning streak snapped in a 71-67 loss at UNLV on Dec. 23.
They had 12 days to think about their mistakes before opening conference play with a 73-49 rout of Arizona State on Sunday.
They outrebounded the Sun Devils 33-23 after conceding a 46-33 advantage to the Rebels. Arizona, which had averaged a plus-8.3 margin on the boards in its first 12 games, also limited Arizona State to six offensive rebounds after surrendering 27 over its previous two games.
Coach Sean Miller’s club has struggled all season at the free-throw line, shooting 66.4 percent, including a 15-for-24 performance versus UNLV. It showed signs of improvement Sunday, making 16 of 19 from the charity stripe.
“We had a good week of practice this week and I was hoping some of the good things we did would carry over into the first Pac-12 game of the year,” Miller said. “And I believe that happened.”
Arizona didn’t play to its usual defensive standards against UNLV, letting the Rebels shooting 44.1 percent after holding five of its previous six opponents to 39.7 percent or worse.
The Wildcats limited the Sun Devils to 32.6 percent shooting – the lowest they’ve allowed this season – and forced a season-high 22 turnovers.
“We spent a lot of time working on defense,” said Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who had 13 points and eight rebounds in his first start this season. “It felt good to go out and play defense like that.”
It remains to be seen if Hollis-Jefferson will start again after freshman standout Stanley Johnson came off the bench for the first time. Johnson had 13 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting in 25 minutes versus Arizona State after going 3 of 11 versus UNLV.
Elliott Pitts also got the nod over Gabe York in the backcourt for the first time.
“We wanted to start guys that do things the right way,” Miller said.
The Ducks have won three of four in the series and split two meetings last season, going 10 of 19 from 3-point range in a 64-57 home win March 8.
Oregon (11-3, 1-0) has won six in a row overall after beginning league play with Saturday’s 71-59 victory over Oregon State. Joseph Young, the conference’s leading scorer at 20.1 points per game, scored 27 and was 5 of 6 from beyond the arc.
“He was the difference in the game, there’s no doubt about it,” coach Dana Altman said.
Young had just eight points on 3-of-12 shooting in last season’s win over the Wildcats. He also struggled with his shot in a 67-64 loss at Arizona on Feb. 6, going 5 of 13 and finishing with 14 points.