Instant Analysis: Oregon defeats Arizona 74-73 in overtime
Arizona did a lot of the right things needed to pull off the road upset on Thursday in Eugene. However, they also did enough of the wrong things to lose. In the end, two turnovers in the game’s final 30 seconds of overtime would ultimately cost the Wildcats a chance at victory. After the 74-73 loss at Oregon, the Wildcats have now dropped four games this season, three to nationally ranked opponents, by a total scoring margin of just 13 points.
Arizona led Oregon 66-60 with under two minutes remaining. However, rather than continuing to apply pressure, the Wildcats instead deflated the basketball and rank clock on back-to-back possessions that led to zero points. The Ducks took full advantage, scoring the final six points in regulation, including Payton Pritchard’s fall away jumper with 25 seconds remaining to tie the score and force overtime. In a clearly controversial call that had Arizona’s Sean Miler in fits at the end of regulation, Oregon’s Pritchard blocked Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji on an attempted jump shot as time expired. Replays showed it was not a clean block, but instead an obvious foul, which was supported by the fact that Nnaji, who entered the game shooting 69.1 percent from the floor, saw his shot attempt miss the basket by nearly eight feet. Some will argue it was a clear block, but the rotation and direction of the ball indicates a clear foul.
Although the non-call is not the reason why Arizona lost in Eugene, a correct call would have likely resulted in a Wildcat victory.
Oregon’s Will Richardson was only 6-of-17 shooting from the floor, but seemed to make an impact on nearly every one of Oregon’s biggest buckets. Richardson made all five free throw attempts, had a three-point play in overtime, and made the game’s winning shot on a dribble drive and layup with 15 seconds to go. Richardson’s teammate Payton Pritchard had one of his worst shooting games of the season, but still finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Pritchard’s clutch jumper with 25 seconds to play sent the game into overtime.
Arizona’s freshmen trio of Nico Mannion, Josh Green and Zeke Nnaji again led the way for the Wildcats, which is starting to become a problem for an Arizona team that is simply not getting enough production from multiple sources outside of the freshmen. The trio combined to score 48 of Arizona’s 73 points. Mannion led the way with 20 points, while Green and Nnaji finished with 18 and 11 points, respectively. Impressively, Nnaji led all players with a game-high 14 rebounds.
Amateur Hour Times Two
The first significantly bad call by the officials was the non-call on Pritchard. Understandably, had the refs actually blown the whistle on Pritchard, Oregon fans would undoubtedly be livid. However, a foul is a foul and that was a foul. The trajectory of the basketball, in no way, resembles that of a blocked shot, even a fingertip block of the basketball. Hence, there were only two logical conclusions the officials could have made: the basketball either slipped out of Nnaji’s hands or he was fouled on the wrist, which kills shooting momentum as much as a flat tire kills speed in NASCAR.
The second significantly bad call came with less than 10 seconds remaining in overtime. On a mad scramble for a loose ball near the sideline on Arizona’s side of the half court, Arizona’s Nnaji first saved the ball from going out of bounds. Nnaji’s save ended up in the hands of Oregon’s Pritchard who then saved the ball by tossing it behind his back and right into the middle of the lane where Arizona’s Josh Green scooped it up about five feet in front of the rim. Had the whistle not been blown, Green basically had an open layup that would have given Arizona a 75-74 lead with just seconds remaining. Instead, the officials prematurely blew the whistle, assuming Pritchard’s foot was out of bounds. Again, replay evidence showed that Pritchard released the basketball with his feet about 7-8 inches off the ground. Of course, it was a wild play. However, the officials got it wrong yet again.
What was Miller Thinking?
Anyone who has played competitive basketball totally gets what Sean Miller was trying to do with a 66-60 lead and less than two minutes to play. There’s not a coach in the country that wouldn’t tell their offense to eat clock with the lead down the stretch. Where I question Miller is going to the 1-4 flat set, with Mannion mindlessly dribbling the basketball for 20-25 seconds at the top of the court. The question comes from the fact that Arizona basically runs a motion offense, not a stagnant stand around. So, to go to such a set when it’s abundantly clear what the Wildcats were trying to do was probably not the smartest strategy. What Arizona should have done, and I’m no head coach, is continue to run it’s normal offense, or at a minimum, a three-guard weave near the top of the key to kill clock. The reason is in this type of stalling motion offense, the defense is still vulnerable. Arizona could have easily caught Oregon with a backdoor cut for a layup as their defense over pursues and looks for steal. Instead, Oregon was able to fully set its defense on consecutive possessions for two critical stops that would change the outcome of the game.
How Oregon Won?
The bottom line is Oregon was clutch and Arizona’s wasn’t on Thursday. This isn’t intended to be a knock on Arizona. It’s basketball. This stuff happens. Oregon delivered in the clutch and Arizona didn’t. The problems started with Arizona blowing a 66-60 advantage in the final 1:40 of regulation. Things continued to go awry in overtime. Dylan Smith and Nico Mannion each had turnovers in the final 30 seconds of overtime. Oregon’s Richardson was unstoppable in the extra session and despite shooting just 6-for-21 from the floor, Pritchard figured out a way to make the ball go in the basket near the end of regulation despite hawking defense by Arizona’s Mannion. Pritchard was also credited with the “block” of Nnaji at the end of regulation, while having a hand in the steal in the waning moments that denied the Wildcats a final shot at winning.
Oregon’s Chris Duarte was a silent assassin on Thursday. With teammate Pritchard controlling the offense the majority of the night and Richardson throwing up wild, flailing shots on dribble drives that actually went through the net, Duarte quietly finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. Duarte was also in the middle of several loose ball scrambles that would ultimately go Oregon’s way, which ended up hurting the Wildcats on several occasions.
Player of the Game
Oregon’s Will Richardson added five rebounds and four assists to his game-high 21 points. His ability to drive and score inside the lane, combined with two makes from behind the 3-Point arc, made him difficult to defend all game, but particularly in the second half and in overtime.
Stat of the Game
Arizona, at one time, had a 16-0 scoring advantage inside the paint. However, Oregon would finish the game with a points in the paint advantage of 36-30.
Arizona plays at Oregon State on Sunday in Corvallis.