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Oregon beats No. 6 Arizona 67-59 to end Wildcats’ Pac-12 Tournament reign

  • AP
  • Mar 16, 2024

LAS VEGAS (AP) Barely a minute into Friday night’s Pac-12 Tournament semifinal, Oregon watched its two-time all-conference center hit the floor hard and leave the game.

The Ducks then trailed by 14 points as No. 6 Arizona appeared well on its way to another conference title game.

But N’Faly Dante returned to the game and Oregon shut down Arizona for a 67-59 victory over the top-seeded Wildcats.

Jackson Shelstad scored 21 points for the fourth-seeded Ducks, and Jermaine Couisnard had 20.

“We had to keep believing,” Couisnard said. “We know it’s going to come down to a close game.”

Dante added 14 points and 10 rebounds, overcoming that tough early fall. He also blocked four shots.

Ducks coach Dana Altman said Dante had a bruised tailbone.

“Jermaine and Dante are our leaders and it resonates through the team because of them,” Altman said. “You always take on the personality … of your best players.”

The Ducks (22-11) will play Colorado in Saturday’s championship game. The third-seeded Buffaloes advanced with a 58-52 victory over No. 22 Washington State.

Arizona (25-8) will learn its seed and destination for the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. The Wildcats, who were 11 1/2-point favorites according to FanDuel Sportsbook, were attempting to become the first team to three-peat as Pac-12 champions since they won four straight in 1988-90 and 2002. There were no conference tournaments between 1991-2001.

Oumar Ballo had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Arizona in his 18th double-double this season. Pelle Larsson added 11 points, but Pac-12 Player of the Year Caleb Love was held to six points on 2-of-11 shooting.

T-Mobile Arena has been dubbed McKale North for Arizona fans, but the Wildcats suffered their first tournament loss in three seasons under coach Tommy Lloyd. They are 7-1 in the conference tournament and 10-2 under Lloyd in Las Vegas. The other Vegas loss also occurred this season, a 96-95 double-overtime setback against then-No. 14 Florida Atlantic in December.

Oregon threatened to run away in the second half, taking a 61-48 lead before Arizona stormed back with a nine-point run. Four points came on one possession – a blocking foul and a technical on the Ducks’ bench protesting the call.

But Arizona’s rally fizzled from there.

The Wildcats appeared on the verge of blowing open the game in the first half, going on an 11-point run to take a 27-13 lead with 6:52 left. They didn’t make a basket again until 3:01 into the second half – a stretch of 9 minutes, 53 seconds – as Oregon befuddled the Wildcats with a zone defense for much of that stretch.

That allowed the offense to finally come around as Oregon cut the deficit to five points early in the second half.

“As poorly as we played, as unorganized as we were for five or six minutes, we were fortunate,” Altman said. “So to come out in the second half, we got a pretty good start. So I thought that was really important. Coaches always talk about the last four minutes of the first half and first four minutes of the second half, how critical they are. In this game, we really needed a good start in the second half.”

Arizona also had a 5:52 span in the second half without a basket.

Oregon nearly lost Dante just 1:02 into the game. The center fell over Ballo before the Arizona big man dunked for the Wildcats’ first points. Dante, who missed 14 games this season to injuries, was helped to the locker room. He returned with 7:41 remaining in the first half.

“That kid showed some character,” Lloyd said. “We had opportunities early to extend the lead and we didn’t. And then we had opportunities in the second half to make a run and we didn’t. So when you don’t, that’s the result.”

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The Ducks likely will need to win Saturday to get into the NCAA Tournament. They entered the day 67th in the NCAA’s NET rankings and are 59th in Kenpom. This was a Quad 1 victory, but Oregon is 3-6 in such games.

Arizona: The Wildcats probably remain locked into a No. 2 seed for the tournament, but they have lost two of their past three games. Lloyd said the sting of this loss and extra day of rest could help the players as they get ready for the NCAA Tournament.

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12Taway team logo 4 Oregon 23-11234467home team logo 1 Arizona 25-9332659

T-Mobile Arena Las Vegas, NV

TOP SCORERS
3J. Shelstad G21PTS4REB1AST
11O. Ballo C14PTS12REB0AST
team logo

Oregon

STARTERSPTSREBASTPFMIN
J. Shelstad2141335
J. Couisnard2067238
N. Dante14100327
K. Evans Jr.620219
J. Tracey085132
BENCHPTSREBASTPFMIN
K. Oquendo620430
B. Rigsby010213
M. Diawara01026
N. Bittle
J. Cooper
M. Cook
J. Farnham
A. Warren
K. McCloud
J. Zarzuela
K. Barthelemy
G. Reichle
Total67341319200
team logo

Arizona

STARTERSPTSREBASTPFMIN
O. Ballo14120231
P. Larsson1123034
K. Johnson833336
C. Love622226
K. Boswell413028
BENCHPTSREBASTPFMIN
J. Bradley821322
M. Krivas63018
K. Lewis212415
W. Menaugh
F. Borovicanin
D. Anderson
H. Veesaar
C. Martinez
P. Murauskas
J. Cook
W. Kuykendall
L. Champion
G. Weitman
Total59261415200

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