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A reckoning of sorts is on its way and the Ducks are going to be on the business end of it.
Yes, the same Ducks that demolished this same Arizona team by 30 points only two weeks ago. And yes, the same Ducks that are on a five-game winning streak while playing as well as they have in possibly a decade.
None of that will matter once their plane leaves Eugene, though.
The Ducks are flat-out bad on the road and last time I checked, Arizona had won 201 of its last 213 games in McKale Center. That's a cool 91%, people. In fact, the last time Oregon won a game in Tucson, Salim Stoudamire was two-years-old.
The Ducks played the best they are going to play all year last time out against the Wildcats. They hit 13 three-pointers (eight in the first half), scored a season-high 105 points and had career-nights from two guys very few average fans have ever heard of.
Sorry, but Luke Jackson isn't THAT good. And James Davis? Who? Nice leg kick on the shot release.
Here's the difference from two weeks ago. Arizona now knows what to expect. Simple.
"We gave them a lot of penetration to the middle last time," Wildcat assistant coach Rodney Tention said. "We gave them a lot of open looks and open shots. If you give anybody open looks they're gonna make it. I mean Oregon's good, but they are not 30 points better than us."
The coaching staff at Arizona is nothing if not brilliant when it comes to making adjustments. Take the two games versus Oregon last year for example.
In the first game in Eugene, Oregon held Arizona to a season-low 35% from the field and beat the seventh-ranked Wildcats 79-67.
Exactly one month later, Arizona proved that losing to Oregon was a fluke when it destroyed the Ducks by 39 points, 104-65. All the same guys who played well in the friendly confines of Mac Court suddenly disappeared inside McKale Center and that is the pattern that defines Oregon basketball: win at home and...win at home.
If anything, Arizona is on a mission against the Ducks for pride reasons.
"I think our guys understand where they're going to school," Arizona assistant Jay John said.
After starting the season with eight of their first nine games on the road, the Wildcats finally settled into McKale last weekend for a couple of games and managed to break out of a three-week long shooing slump. The Cats made 50% of their shots during the two-game Fiesta Bowl Classic, nearly 10% higher than their season average.
Particularly impressive was the play of Stoudamire, who averaged 19 points per game and made 60% of his shots, including half of his three-point tries. Anyone who saw him in preseason scrimmages knows what happens when Salim gets hot: he tends not to miss for extended periods of time.
If Stoudamire can continue his hot streak and birthday boy Will Bynum (he will be 19 on Friday) can break out of his funk, the Arizona guard trio that also includes Jason Gardner is a better unit than the Ducks will put on the floor.
Freddie Jones and James Davis absolutely will not shoot as well as they did up in Eugene this time around. And word on the street is that Wildcat fans may see as intense a defensive effort on the perimeter by Arizona as any in recent memory. "They'll be ready," John says.
It's also not hard to imagine Arizona's Gardner stepping up his game to the level at which he played against Kansas in early December. You can bet that Arizona's six freshmen have heard plenty from Gardner and fellow juniors Luke Walton and Rick Anderson about what it means to have "Arizona" written across their chests and how to play up to the level of those who came before them.
Avenging 30-point losses to average conference opponents is a new experience for Arizona but it's something that must be done for the program's sake.
If Walton's strained right Achilles keeps him out of the game on Friday, it will be especially important for Anderson and Bynum to compensate for his absence. It's unrealistic to expect either player to do what Walton does for the Cats (which pretty much amounts to everything) but at the same time it is necessary that both avoid unforced errors and stay within the constructs of the game plan for Arizona to win.
However, Luke Walton is a competitor and he has as much pride as anyone on the roster. He will find a way to play on Friday night. He, like the rest of his teammates, have something to prove to the Ducks.
You don't win in McKale.
But then again, Oregon already knows that.
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