Ducks fail to close out yet again in heartbreaking 67-65 loss to Wildcats

Ralph Freso

These teams know how to take it down to the wire. Including Thursday, the last three match ups between Oregon and Arizona have been decided by a combined eight points.

In what is becoming a recurring theme of this team, the Oregon men’s basketball team once again failed to close out a close game, falling to the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats 67-65 on Thursday night in Tucson.

Joseph Young and Jason Calliste led the Ducks in scoring with 14 points each. Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis also reached double figures in points with 12 and 10, respectively.

Nick Johnson led the way for Arizona with 18 points, including 8-of-11 shooting from the free throw line, an area where the Wildcats struggled all night long.

The game got off to an ominous start as Joe Young came limping off the court in the game’s opening moments. Young would return a few minutes later however.

Oregon did seem to be moving the ball around with more confidence and better execution, using a 9-2 scoring run out of the gates jumping out to an 11-6 lead. The Wildcats would respond back with eight unanswered points to reclaim the lead.

Arizona had a poor start from the free throw line, missing five of their first seven shots, allowing the Ducks to keep stride despite poor early shooting from the field.

Arizona also controlled the paint early, something the Ducks have struggled with. Oregon is no doubt a team of outside shooters and is vastly undersized when it comes to their inside players. The Wildcats were able to turn to Kaleb Tarczewski who led the team with 10 points in the first half along with five offensive rebounds, providing second chance opportunities for Arizona. The Wildcats outscored Oregon 11-5 in second chance points during the first half.

The Ducks went on a cold streak in the first half, going nearly eight minutes without a field goal before Jason Calliste drilled a three-pointer with eight minutes to play in the half. Fortunately for the Ducks, Arizona consistently struggled at the free throw line early, allowing Oregon to keep things from getting out of hand.

Damyean Dotson, a guy who has struggled recently, reached double figures in scoring early with a put-back jam off a missed three-pointer to bring the Ducks within two.

Oregon would regain the lead late in the first half with back-to-back three-pointer from Dominic Artis and Calliste. The Ducks shot 4-of-7 from beyond the arc in the first half, while the Wildcats shot 2-of-7. Oregon would lead 38-37 going into the half.

The Ducks got started off on the right foot in the second half. After a second chance opportunity from an offensive rebound, Young drained a three-pointer to put the Ducks up by four. Arizona responded with a three of their own before the two sides went cold. It would be another three and a half minutes before either team would score again.

Joseph Young took over early in the second half with 8 points in the first six minutes, providing the Ducks with a 46-40 lead, their largest of the night to that point. The Wildcats struggled out of the gate, missing seven of their first eight shots. Aaron Gordon also continued to shoot poorly at the free throw line, missing his first four shots.

Arizona would respond back with a 7-0 run, capped off by a breakaway dunk from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, to tie the game back up at 50-50 with 10:12 to go. Hollis-Jefferson was making just his third career start on Thursday.

The Wildcats were forced to use their final timeout of the night when Aaron Gordon suffered a foot injury with 8:22 remaining. During the timeout, Gordon was taken to the locker room to be examined further. He would check back in out of the timeout.

Oregon would go over three minutes without a basket, allowing the Wildcats to cut the Ducks’ lead back down to two with just under five and a half minutes to play. Despite what had been without a doubt their best defensive effort, anytime the Ducks would build a lead, they would be met by a cold streak to allow the Wildcats to keep things close. In the span of four minutes, Oregon held two different leads of seven and six points, both of which they would surrender.

After an awful shot selection by Joseph Young, a three-pointer from T.J. McConnell gave the Wildcats their first lead of the second half with 1:33 to play. A pair of free throws from Nick Johnson gave Arizona a four point lead with just 48 seconds to go.

Dominic Artis would provide Oregon with a much needed quick layup off the free throws, but Nick Johnson would hit both of his free throws after being fouled to make it a four-point game again with 32 seconds left.

After driving to the rim, Artis missed both free throws, but an offensive rebound opportunity would send Calliste to the line. Unfortunately, Calliste only hit one of the free throws.

The Ducks would continue to foul Nick Johnson, pretty much the one guy on the floor you didn’t want to foul that night. Johnson hit one of the free throws, pinning the Ducks up against the wall.

Oregon’s nail in the coffin would be a turnover from Joseph Young as he was called for traveling. Once again, the Ducks simply could not close out a game. Oregon had plenty of chances to pull away in the second half, but just went cold. Not counting Dotson’s put-back dunk at the buzzer, the Ducks scored just one field goal in the final 3:56, a layup from Dominic Artis with 43 seconds to go.

When conference play began on January 2, the Ducks were undefeated and ranked tenth in the nation. Since then, the Ducks have gone 3-7, falling out of not just the national picture, but the conference picture as well. It’s no longer asking how high this team could fly, but rather how far they could fall. It seems at this point that Oregon’s only hope to go dancing is to win the Pac-12 tournament in Vegas. But let’s be honest, with how they’ve been playing in the past month, the Ducks would probably have more luck at the craps table in the team hotel.

The Ducks are back at it on Saturday afternoon when they take on Arizona State before getting a week off. Oregon will return home next Sunday for a Civil War matchup with the Oregon State Beavers.

Now excuse me while I go throw a snowball at Nick Johnson.

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