Friday, February 07, 2014
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Arizona rallies past Oregon

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[February 07, 2014]  TUCSON, Ariz.  Life without forward Brandon Ashley will not be easy for the second-ranked Arizona Wildcats.

The Wildcats, playing their first full game without the injured sophomore starter, rallied past the Oregon Ducks 67-65 on Thursday night at McKale Center to bounce back from their first loss of the season.

"Tonight's game is a real tribute to the team in that it took a lot of resiliency on our part, a lot of belief, a lot of toughness. Things weren't going our way," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "Just a lot of different guys stepping up. To me, this was our best victory of the season, based on who the game went and what the game means and playing without Brandon."

Nick Johnson scored 18 points, including making 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute, to lead the Wildcats (22-1, 9-1 Pac-12). Forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) as he stepped into the starting lineup for Ashley, who suffered a season-ending foot injury early in the team's first loss of the season at Cal on Saturday night.

"He's a warrior," point guard T.J. McConnell said of Hollis-Jefferson, a high-energy freshman. "I tell him that every day. He just goes out there and out-works people."


Oregon (15-7, 3-7) led by as many as seven points in the second half, at 50-43, but the Ducks failed to end a month-long slump. Oregon lost for the seventh time in nine games since starting the season 13-0.

"They're hurting," said coach Ducks Dana Altman. "That's our third two-point loss. I just told them we have to be resilient. It hurts having an opportunity and not being able to finish."

Oregon guard Joseph Young scored 14 points  all in the second half  to tie for the team scoring lead with guard Jason Calliste. Guard Damyean Dotson added 12.

Arizona never had the lead in the second half until point guard T.J. McConnell's 3-pointer put the Wildcats up 62-60 with 1:30 to go. Johnson's free throws with 47.8 seconds left made it 64-60.

Johnson again made it a two-possession game with a free throw for a 67-63 lead with 15.7 seconds left. Dotson put in a dunk at the buzzer for the final margin.

Oregon turned the ball over three times in the final five minutes and missed 3 of 4 free throw attempts in the final 30 seconds.

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"It's the best game we have played all season," Young said. "It was a good atmosphere to be in as a team. We know down the stretch we need to execute and make better plays."

The Wildcats, who fell from No. 1 in the rankings Monday after eight weeks at the top, led much of the first half but Oregon, the Pac-12's top-scoring team at 84.7 points per game, regained the advantage by hitting six of its final eight shots of the half. When guards Dominic Artis and Calliste hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, the Ducks led 38-35.

Arizona cut its deficit to 38-37 at halftime when Hollis-Jefferson tipped in a rebound with one second to go.

Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski had 12 points and seven rebounds for Arizona. Forward Aaron Gorgon has six points and eight rebounds, but was only 2 of 11 from the foul line.

The absence of Ashley makes Arizona smaller, erasing the team's usual rebounding edge of 9.5 per game. Oregon had a 40-35 edge on the glass, and at some point in the Miller split his pants, showing up to his press conference in a T-shirt and sweats, joking that he must have busted a seam while demonstrating proper block-out technique on the sideline.

"Our room for rebounding error has left us," he said. "I think we'll get it back. ... Post Brandon, we're moving toward figuring out who we are going to become."

NOTES: The Arizona student section stood and chanted F Brandon Ashley's name as he stood at midcourt during his team's warm-ups. Ashley, out for his season, smiled and raised his crutches in acknowledgement. ... Oregon senior F Mike Moser reached 1,000 career points early in the game. Before his transfer to Oregon, he scored 690 points for UNLV at 36 at UCLA. ... Oregon G Joseph Young, the team's leading scorer with 18.1 points per game, left the game in the first minute with an injury. He returned about 4 1/2 minutes later after trainers looked at his leg. ... Kevin Long, the hitting coach of the New York Yankees and a former Arizona baseball All-American, attended the game.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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