Rose City believers
Among the 100 UA fans who bought tickets through Portland’s Rose City Cats alumni group were two guys who never wavered in their belief that the Wildcats could put something special together this season.
Brad Rankin and Leo Thornton, who formerly helped organize the Rose City Cats, said before Saturday’s game that they weren’t surprised.
“I expected this,” Thornton said. “The defense has been good all year.”
The Rose City Cats provided a swatch of red inside the Matthew Knight Arena and a pregame lounge area. Rankin said 55 of them rode a bus together from Portland for the game and that more than 100 bought tickets through the group. He added that some fans came from Washington and California, where Thornton lives.
Even with the loss, Arizona finished Pac-12 play with its best conference mark since the 2002-03 team went 17-1.
“It’s difficult to do,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “And these road trips aren’t easy. You come up here for five days, you play a tough game and work hard in between. That’s why our conference is so good because it’s not easy to do that.
“We feel good about where we’re at. We just happened to lose our last game.”
The Mayor returns
Not only will Oregon guard Johnathan Loyd be making a homecoming to Las Vegas this week for the Pac-12 tournament, he’ll also be returning to defend the league tourney’s most outstanding player award he won last season, scoring 19 points in the Ducks’ title win over UCLA.
So when Loyd was asked after the game how the “Mayor of Las Vegas” would do this week, he grinned.
“We’ll see,” he said. “We’ll see.”
It’s not bragging if …
Speaking of Loyd, the bettors in his hometown might want to take notes the next time he makes a prediction.
After Oregon defeated Oregon State 93-83 on Feb. 16, moving its record to just 4-8 in the Pac-12, Loyd said the Ducks were about to go on a run.
They have won six straight games since then, giving them a seven-game winning streak.
“I don’t want to say I told you so,” Loyd said. “But I did.”
With seven seniors on hand, Oregon had a lot invested in Senior Day.
While the Ducks were otherwise dressed in yellow warmups before the game, their seniors wore long sleeved green shirts that simply read “SENIOR” and had a Duck on them.
Then, before the game, Oregon played “O Canada” before “The Star-Spangled Banner” in honor of Canadian seniors Richard Amardi and Jason Calliste.
After the game, the Ducks held a half-hour ceremony to honor their seniors, with many in the sold-out crowd of 12,364 sticking around to watch.
It was the third Senior Day the Wildcats were involved with this season, counting one at Colorado on Feb. 22 and their own last Sunday.
In his postgame locker-room address, according to goducks.com, Ducks coach Dana Altman told his players their resiliency will help them down the road.
“You’re going to go through adversity with your job, with your families,” Altman told his players. “This isn’t as tough as those situations, but always remember: ‘We didn’t give into it. I didn’t give into it. I manned up, the team manned up, and we got it done.’ And you’re going to have to help your wife, your kids, your business someday, with those same things. You just can’t quit. You can’t give into it. And you didn’t. You didn’t. And I’m really proud of you for that.”
The big number
10 Oregon three-pointers, the most UA has allowed all season.
“They will be a No. 1 seed, No. 2 at worst, but definitely one of the top five teams in the country and I still believe personally that they are the best because of their defense, and defense wins.” — Oregon coach Dana Altman on Arizona