The Arizona Wildcats may still win the Pac-12 and run deep into the NCAA tournament this season.
But if their 67-65 win over Oregon tonight meant anything, doing so without Brandon Ashley isn’t going to be easy.
Arizona struggled from the free-throw line (54.3 percent) and three-point line (25.0) and didn’t make up for it with a rebounding advantage, with Oregon having a 40-35 rebounding edge. UA did have 15 offensive rebounds to Oregon's 13, however.
The win moved Arizona to 22-1 overall and 9-1 in the Pac-12, heading into a Sunday night game with Oregon State. Oregon dropped to 15-7 and 3-7.
T.J. McConnell, having missed seven of his previous eight shots, hit a three-pointer with 1:30 left that gave UA a 52-50 lead that the Wildcats held for good.
After Oregon’s Richard Amardi missed a jumper on the Ducks’ ensuing possession, Nick Johnson drew a foul near the free-throw line and hit both free throws to make it 64-60. A layup from Oregon’s Dominic Artis cut the lead to two points with 41 seconds left but the Ducks missed 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute while the Wildcats hung on.
The Wildcats were playing their first full game without Ashley, who was lost for the season with a significant foot injury against Cal last Saturday. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson started at small forward in his place, while Aaron Gordon was moved to power forward, and reserve guard Elliott Pitts picked up significant minutes off the bench.
Oregon took a 60-55 lead with 3:52 left after a three-point try from McConnell rimmed out, leaving McConnell 1 of 8 from the field at that point. But Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski scored inside late to pull UA withi 60-59.
Both teams shot poorly early in the second half, with UA 1-5 and Oregon 1-7 from the field through the first four minutes. But Oregon received a jumper and a three-pointer from Joseph Young, who was hurt in the first half, to take a 46-40 lead with 14 minutes left.
Oregon went ahead 50-43 with 12:49 left when Richard Amardi drove inside for a layup.
UA flashed to its old ways midway through the second half, with a defensive stop leading to a dunk from Hollis-Jefferson, tying the game at 50 with 10:12 left. But Oregon came back to score six straight, four from Young, to go ahead 56-50 with 8:22 left.
In the first half, Arizona struggled from the free-throw line and field Oregon took a 38-37 halftime lead.
Arizona hit just 11 of 19 free throws and made just 2 of 7 three-pointers while trailing at halftime for the eighth time this season. Oregon also outrebounded Arizona 20-19 overall, although the Wildcats had nine offensive rebounds to Oregon's seven.
Oregon's Dominic Artis gave the Ducks a late 35-33 lead when he scored on a driving layup and three-pointer in the final minutes, while Jason Calliste hit a three-pointer to put Oregon ahead 38-35 with 1:44 left.
Arizona pulled within 38-37 on a tip-in from Hollis-Jefferson.
Earlier, Arizona took a 31-27 lead on a dunk from Hollis-Jefferson with five minutes left but scores in side from Ben Carter and Mike Moser cut it to 31-29 and a free throw from Artis made it 31-30.
Oregon took an early 11-6 lead after Damyean Dotson hit a three-pointer and Amardi hit a 15-footer on the Ducks’ next possession.
At that point, UA coach Sean Miller turned to the first of his three options for a seventh man, Pitts, and began receiving results right away. Pitts grabbed an offensive rebound that led to two free throws from Tarczewski, giving UA a 15-11 lead and came back two minutes later to hit a three-pointer that put the Wildcats ahead 18-14.