A collision of champions was underway Saturday night as the Oregon Ducks took on the Arizona Wildcats. Surprisingly the Ducks entered the night as 1.5 point underdogs thanks in large part to the crowd that the Arizona fan base brings to Las Vegas.
After two straight misses from the Wildcats, Elgin Cook got the Ducks on the board first with a three pointer. The Oregon defense was on display in the early going as Arizona missed their first five shots. The Ducks offense showed up as well, putting up ten points in the first four minutes. The highlight of the early going was a blocked shot by Elgin Cook leading to a fast break layup to take a 10-2 lead with 16:09 to play.
After back-to-back dunks by Kaleb Tarcewski the Wildcats were down four. However, as soon as he started the Wildcats momentum, the big man picked up his second foul to head to the bench. Dwayne Benjamin took advantage of the opening in the lane with a layup to go back up six. After the teams traded buckets, Oregon held a 14-10 lead at the under-12 minute timeout.
Jordan Bell continued his strong stretch of post moves as after a an Arizona score he responded at the rim. After a string of sloppy play, Benjamin finally found a finish at the rim to extend the lead to seven. After another Wildcat finish in the point, Dillon Brooks got on the board for the first time of the night with a three pointer. After an Allonzo Trier three, the Oregon lead was 22-17 at the under-eight time out.
After the timeout, things started to fall the Wildcats way after Gabe York hit a buzzer beating three pointer to bring the game within two points. Chris Boucher silenced the then alive crowed with an immediate put-back layup that was instantly responded by an Arizona dunk. Following back-to-back blocks by Boucher, Tyler Dorsey regained the momentum with a three. After an Arizona three, the score was 29-27 Oregon at the final timeout of the first half.
Elgin Cook took the Ducks out of the break with a smooth finish to bring his total for the night to ten. After another finish at the rim by Brooks, the Oregon lead was pressed back to six forcing Arizona into a timeout. After a Dorsey three in transition the Oregon lead was back to nine. Following a string of turnovers, the Ducks had rolled off 13 straight points bringing the lead to 42-27. The stretch was snapped following a Jordan Bell technical leading to two free throws from Trier.
Following a Dillon Brooks dunk at the buzzer, the Ducks held a 44-29 lead at the half, going on a 15-2 run. Elgin Cook led the way at the half with his 12 points and four rebounds, with Brooks trailing with seven points and Benjamin, Dorsey and Bell all with six points. Shooting played a big factor in the first as Oregon shot 48.6 % while Arizona shot just 33.3% thanks in large part to the eight blocks by the Ducks.
Arizona came out of the half aggressive as they scored five quick points. Tyler Dorsey reclaimed the momentum for the Ducks with a three pointer to extend the Oregon lead back to 16. Dorsey continued his hot second half with another three pointer to take the lead to 55-38 with 15:30 to play.
Three straight points out of the timeout brought the Wildcats within 14. Once again it was the hot hand of Dorsey who responded with an and-one finish. However, after the score it was Arizona who went on a quick run to bring the score to 12. With a Tarcewski dunk, the Wildcats had cut the lead back to ten. Dwayne Benjamin finally stopped the quick run with a monster finish at the rim. A Chris Boucher alley-oop brought the Oregon crowd to life while claiming a 62-49 lead at the under-12 minute timeout.
The Wildcats took advantage of reaching the bonus early as they cut the lead to nine with just over ten minutes to play. Dwayne Benjamin continued to throw his body on the line as on back-to-back plays he was slow to get up after hard collisions. Following an 8-0 Arizona run the Oregon lead was cut to six with 8:32 to play. After taking the hard falls, Benjamin headed to the locker room with an undisclosed injury. At the under eight minute timeout, Oregon held onto a 75-68 lead.
After two Arizona free throws the lead was down to just five with just over seven to play. Elgin Cook was able to bring back life for the Ducks with a free throw. Cook continued his stretch of leadership with a finish in the lane bringing the lead back up to eight. After an Oregon steal and transition layup, the lead was back to ten with 5:13 to play.
With the Ducks up nine with 4:27 to play, Dwayne Benjamin returned to the bench showing no noticeable limp. But with the good news of the Benjamin return came the bad news of a Wildcat run as after five straight Arizona points the lead was just 72-68 with 3 minutes to play.
Once again, Elgin Cook was able to quiet the crowd by getting to the rim with a foul call only to miss both free throw shots. Yet, Cook answered immediately as after a Brooks rebound he finished at the rim for an and-one foul, fouling out Allonzo Trier in the process. Following three straight missed three pointers from Arizona, the ball was finally back in the hands of the Ducks up six with just over 1:30 to play.
Oregon took no advantage of that possession as they fell victim to a shot clock violation giving the Wildcats back the ball with 1:17. With just over one minute to play Oregon was up 74-70. Tyler Dorsey hit one of the shots of the game as he nailed a long two to put the Ducks back up six with 47.1 to play. After an Arizona missed three pointer the Ducks were back in control with the ball. Following a Casey Benson made free throw, Arizona hit a three pointer to cut the lead to four with 17.8 left.
Chris Boucher completed one of the worst sequences of the season after the timeout. The stretch started by Boucher missing two straight free throws. The chaos continued after Boucher blocked a shot on the other end leading to a made three pointer by Gabe York. After that, the worst play of the Oregon season occurred as Boucher inbounded the ball straight to Arizona player Mark Tollefsen who was immediately fouled by Dillon Brooks with .4 seconds to play with the Ducks clinging to a one point lead. Through a miracle for the Ducks, the solid free throw shooter missed his first shot and hit his second just forcing overtime. At 77-77 the game was headed into overtime with the momentum all Wildcats.
The Ducks got on the board first in overtime with a free throw from Jordan Bell. After a steal and strip sending Elgin Cook back to the line for Oregon, Arizona guard Jackson-Cartwright fouled out of the game. With just under four minutes to play the Oregon lead was three. Ryan Anderson responded for the Wildcats with a nice left-handed finish in the lane.
Arizona tied the game up with three minutes to play, but the good news for Oregon is that it marked the return of Dwayne Benjamin. Benjamin immediately responded by coming in ice cold to nail a three pointer. After an Arizona miss, Dillon Brooks nailed a crucial shot as he nailed a three from Steph Curry range bringing the Oregon lead to six with 1:51 remaining. Following a stretch of a Cook free throw and a three pointer by York the Oregon lead was four with a minute to play. After two free throws from Brooks and an Oregon turnover the Ducks were back in control up six with 47 seconds left.
With Dillon Brooks icing the game at the line for the Ducks, the game was finally finished off for a 95-89 win in overtime. The resilience of Oregon was on display after the near collapse and last second loss. The Ducks have now doubled up on the Arizona Wildcats this season and now move on to face the winner of the Utah Utes and California Golden Bears tomorrow night in the Pac-12 tournament final at 7:15 pm.
What’s the health situation? It will be very interesting to see what the status of Dwayne Benjamin is moving forward. Hard exactly to tell what the injury was but reports are this it was a lower leg/ankle injury. Obviously the good news of the night was the Benjamin returned for some key plays in overtime. Also worth nothing is that Elgin Cook came up limping in the final minutes. It looked like nothing more than a rolled ankle but still, the injuries are hitting at the wrong time.
Free throws. What on earth is going on with the Oregon free throw shooting this weekend? The 15 missed free throws were enormous in this game and was something very un-Oregon like. The Ducks need to shore up this free throw shooting before the NCAA tournament.
Who would you rather play? Let me know your thoughts, would you rather see the Ducks play Utah or California. Although the Utes are rolling right now, my vote is still that Utah is a better matchup for the Ducks.
Oregon's top performers
Elgin Cook, 22 points, 5 rebounds
Dillon Brooks, 19 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists
Dwayne Benjamin, 12 points, 8 rebounds