Arizona (15-3, 5-1) and especially Salim Stoudamire caught fire early and never looked back. Even when Oregon (11-4, 3-3) would make a run at them, the Cats would go right after the Ducks and come up with a hoop from somewhere.
"When they need to make plays, they made them," said Oregon freshman Bryce Taylor. Taylor finished with 20 points.
It happened again and again while the Ducks tried to retake the lead in the second half. With 8:27 left, a Taylor free throw cut the Arizona lead to only two but the Cats quickly got a free throw from Channing Frye and then a Mustafa Shakur transition jumper to stem the tide.
A Malik Hairston rebound and bucket off of a Maarty Leunen missed three pointer cut the ‘Zona lead to three with 5:33 left but right back came Shakur who drilled a three pointer from the corner on the left side. Hairston got one of his own a play later but Hassan Adams answered with a driving two.
Two Ray Schafer free throws brought the Ducks within three again but a Frye tip in and then an Ivan Radenovic three pointer a few plays later put the Wildcats back up eight. Oregon couldn't get anything going in the final few minutes to close the gap again as Arizona nailed shot after shot.
"We got very good looks at shots and that was because of Salim," Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson said.
In the first half, it was almost always Stoudamire who nailed those key Wildcats buckets. After Oregon took a 20-17 lead with 11:09 left, Stoudamire hit two back-to-back pull up three pointers to give the Cats the lead for good. The guard from Lake Oswego, Ore. had 20 of his 27 points in the half.
"All he needs is about .5 seconds to get the ball up," Taylor said.
The Ducks have found this type of game to be a trend lately, with this game strikingly similar to the game against UCLA two weeks ago. After falling behind early, again the Ducks made a run but couldn't pull out the win.
"The whole second half we were knocking at the door, we just couldn't knock it down," said Oregon's Aaron Brooks. The sophomore guard finished with 15 points and a six assists in 32 minutes of play.
During one stretch in the second half, Oregon fans were treated to what might be glimpses of what Brooks can do. For a short stretch, he dominated. First he nailed a floater on the right baseline, followed by a driving two, then a pull-up three pointer and finally a great transition pass to Leunen. Brooks was responsible for nine points in two minutes.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, their offense went stagnant after that stretch by Brooks and then six straight points, moments later, by Taylor. It was almost as though Brooks and Taylor were exchanging passes at the top of the key after coming off screens. There was little movement from anyone else.
During the comeback, though, Oregon again used the zone defense very well. It limited Stoudamire to only seven second half points and allowed the Ducks to pressure the Cats a little more.
"In hindsight, we probably should have played more of it in the second half," Oregon Head Coach Ernie Kent said.
With Arizona State coming to Mac Court on Saturday, the Ducks are going to have to figure out what it is that keeps stopping them from nabbing these big wins. Aaron Brooks might have part of the answer.
"We can't let them get out to a good start like Arizona did today," he said.
Kent had a more simplistic focus.
"We need to win on Saturday," he said.
Too Little Too Late Again
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