LAS VEGAS, Nevada — No. 7 Arizona slipped by No. 5 Oregon, 83-80, in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship on Saturday from T-Mobile Arena. Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey combined to score 48 points in the losing effort.
The mood was somber entering Saturday’s tournament finale. We know every game is going to be a battle without the imposing presence of senior Chris Boucher. This was just a taste of what is ahead.
"I just feel really bad for Chris," said Oregon head coach Dana Altman. "He's a wonderful young man and it's really hard for him. It was a big blow to our team this morning."
Arizona led by as much as 14 points in the second half, 49-35, before UO made their desperate comeback attempt. Credit should be heaped upon this Oregon team for enduring through the tough stretches, on and off the basketball court.
"I love the way our guys battled back," Altman said. "Our guys really, really battled back, put ourselves in position. We just didn't get it done."
Dillon Brooks returned to form after arguably his worst game as a Duck vs Cal on Friday night. The silky smooth junior scored a whopping 17 points in the first half amid the terrible news prior to the game.
“I was really emotional about it because he is a big part of this team,” said Brooks. “His (Boucher) story is amazing. For that to happen, it’s crazy. Next man has to step up. Kavell, Roman (Sorkin) and Keith (Smith) got to step up.”
He finished with a game-high 25 points on 8-for-18 shooting from the floor. Brooks drilled 3-for-7 from downtown, as he looked locked in from the start.
Oregon’s sophomore guard started slow with two points on 1-for-5 shooting at the half. Yet, Dorsey reappeared in the final 20 minutes with 21 points. He was dictating the tempo for extended stretches in the second half, as he finished with 23 overall for the game. He was 7-for-15 from the field, including 3-for-8 from deep.
"I think we scored enough," said Dorsey. "It just came down to the defensive end."
With 10 minutes left in the game, Brooks drew his fourth foul. He stayed on the bench for less than two minutes. But when he went to the sideline, Oregon’s offense surged behind the leadership of Dylan Ennis.
The sixth-year senior finished with 12 crucial points and three rebounds. Ennis has registered 18 games with 10 points or more this season.
Don’t be fooled, this team still has their collective eye on the prize.
“The main thing is to win the National Championship. This one hurts, but it will motivate us,” said Brooks.
Jordan Bell was incredible, plain and simple. He deserves so much credit for keeping Oregon in the game. The junior stepped up in place of CB with a double-double. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year concluded with 16 points, 10 boards and a blocked shot.
However, it was his clutch work from the line (8-for-10) that kept UO afloat down the stretch. It looked like he was channeling Boucher’s consistent free throw stroke.
Boucher’s main replacement, both former NJCAA Player’s of the Year, Kavell Bigby-Williams was solid down low.
He congested the paint with six rebounds, three points and two blocked shots. He did a great job in 14 minutes of action. A great deal has been asked of the big man in the span of 24 hours.
“Chris is going to be out and we’re just going to stop winning, stop competing?” Brooks stated rhetorically. “No, that’s not it. Chris is going to motivate us to push as far as we can in the tournament.”
The bizarre officiating continued to play a role. Ennis was called for a ridiculous offensive foul with 55.7 seconds left in the game. Brooks was called for an intentional foul after barely touching Allonzo Trier. The Ducks couldn't buy a break this weekend.
It looked like a role reversal from the Duck blowout of the Wildcats in Eugene at times. Arizona couldn't miss from deep during certain moments, shooting 58 percent from the floor. They were 35 percent from 3-point territory.
The win was determined by Arizona’s rebounding advantage over the Ducks, 35-25. The Cats consumed 29 defensive rebounds to Oregon’s 17 off the glass.
Arizona prayers were being answered on a regular basis from Sin City. From intentional foul calls to miraculous “uncalled” buckets off the backboard, the Wildcats were on a Vegas heater. And, you never leave the table when you’re on a heater.
Trier was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. He was tough to contain on Saturday, scoring 23 points and 13 in the second half. He was 5-for-12 from the field, but killed the Ducks with 10-for-11 from the charity stripe.
Kadeem Allen finished with 13 points, seven boards and four dimes.
The freshman sensation Lauri Markkanen ended his night with 11 points and one rebound.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright hit almost everything he tossed at the rim. He recorded eight huge points off the bench on 3-for-4 shooting.
Now, it’s in the NCAA’s hands. Arizona may grab a No. 1 or No. 2 seed with their victory. Meanwhile, the Ducks could land anywhere from No. 2 to No. 5 now. Everything changed for UO the moment Boucher was lost for the season. Oregon was a No. 1 seed before the injury and a No. 2 seed currently, in my book.
The NCAA has continually shown a lack of respect for the Pac-12, will it continue?
Next up for No. 5 Oregon (29-5) is Selection Sunday. The NCAA Tournament bracket will be revealed on CBS at 5:30 p.m. ET. We will break it all down for the Ducks following the festivities.
Jordan Bell Finishes With Authority
Duck Defense Leads To Offense
Kavell Bigby-Williams Imitates Chris Boucher
3-Pointer By Dillon Brooks