EUGENE, Ore. —
Jimmer Fredette once made nine 3-pointers and scored 49 points against Arizona, a shooting performance so extraordinary that when teammate Noah Hartsock hit a 3-pointer late in the game, the McKale Center public address announcer said “3-pointer by Fredette.”
At some point on that December night, 2009, it all seemed the same. BYU won 99-69.
On Saturday afternoon at Matthew Knight Arena, Oregon’s Chris Boucher buried a 3-pointer to give the Ducks a 59-27 lead and PA man Don Essig shouted, “3-pointer for Tyler Dorsey!”
Fredette, Dorsey. Sean Miller knows how it goes.
“If Dorsey had shot 10, I think he’d have gone 10 for 10,” said Miller.
The Ducks won 85-58, a full-out demolition of Arizona’s 15-game winning streak that was almost as scary as it was impressive.
“I hope it’s their best,” Miller said. “If they have another level above this, it’s bad news for everybody in the country.”
Nobody plays a perfect game in college basketball, not when there are 128 total possessions, as there were Saturday. But when it got to be 72-36 and the clock seemed to crawl, you started thinking in terms of historic Pac-12 performances.
Given the stage and the nation’s No. 5 team as an opponent, 13th-ranked Oregon came as close to perfection as a basketball team can.
They were so good that UA freshman Rawle Alkins couldn’t remember the details.
He referred to Ducks sixth man Casey Benson as “the other kid off the bench.” Benson bombed in three 3-pointers in the first half. Who didn’t?
Nobody had shot even 48 percent against Arizona this season, not even No. 1 Gonzaga (which shot 44.4 percent), but the Ducks made 65.2 percent of their shots on Saturday.
Digest this: Oregon attempted only nine layups, the easy stuff. Arizona attempted 19 layups and still suffered its most-lopsided loss since that BYU game in Miller’s first season.
“That’s the best game I ever played in three years here,” Oregon’s Dillon Brooks said.
Best game? The Ducks mashed Duke 82-68 in last year’s Sweet 16. They whipped Utah 88-57 in the Pac-12 championship game, and broke Arizona’s 49-game winning streak at McKale Center.
That’s how it felt Saturday. The best. It was as good as the day Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker made 5 of 6 from 3-point distance to eliminate Arizona in the 2015 Elite Eight.
“They shot like an NBA team,” said Alkins.
Brooks and Dorsey needed only a combined 20 shots for their 41 points. They were the Splash Brothers, amateur division, and it makes you wonder how they lost at Baylor, missing 18 of 21 from 3-point distance, in mid-November.
Miller went immediately into damage control. He met for his team with 10 minutes, huddled in another room with his coaching staff for an extended period, took a shower, changed clothes and patiently answered questions down the hallway from where Oregon coach Dana Altman talked about energy and attitude and the payoff from bouncing back from last week’s clumsy loss at Colorado.
“The season didn’t end,” said Miller. “It’s not spring.”
Lots of Final Four-seeking teams get spanked over the course of a four-month season. A year ago, national champion Villanova was bounced 78-55 at Oklahoma on a night the Sooners made 14 3-pointers. In 2013, No. 1 Duke was clobbered 90-63 at Miami yet recovered sufficiently to win 30 games and reach the Elite Eight.
The lingering question is what type of damage was done to Arizona’s team psyche. The Wildcats seemed skittish from the start, unable to crack Oregon’s matchup zone defense and, worse, able to do nothing about a shower of Duck 3-pointers.
Lauri Markkanen made just two field goals in two games on the Oregon Trail. He seemed to be lost in Arizona’s offense. If this isn’t just a typical freshman slump, the Wildcats will themselves be lost.
Miller tried everything; he used his allotment of timeouts with 12 minutes 59 seconds remaining. In one stretch, the Wildcats shot 0 for 11 in a span of eight minutes.
“If we had played great, in my opinion, today it still wouldn’t have been enough,” Miller said.
So you move on, distance yourself from the strange feeling of being overwhelmed and bravely say your team has the same 21-3 overall record and 10-1 conference status as the Ducks.
College basketball only plays one-and-done in March.
As Arizona left the floor Saturday, the Ducks did a victory lap through the student section, mugging for selfies, high-fiving men whose bare chests had been painted yellow. The PA announcer reminded the happy fans that Oregon now has the nation’s longest home-court winning streak.
But there is a caution: The Ducks’ party has an expiration date. They play UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday.
And remember this: On Jan. 14, 1987, Eastern Kentucky set the NCAA record for 3-point field goal percentage, making 15 of 18 shots against North Carolina-Asheville. The Colonels won by 29.
Three weeks later, EKU lost in Asheville 73-72.