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Oregon Ducks beat Arizona Wildcats 74-73 in overtime
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Oregon Ducks beat Arizona Wildcats 74-73 in overtime

EUGENE, Ore. – Led largely by three freshman once again, the Arizona Wildcats picked up a new learning experience Thursday.

The Wildcats lost 74-73 to Oregon in their first overtime game of the season, despite getting a fourth-straight double-double from Zeke Nnaji, 20 points from Nico Mannion and another 17 from Josh Green.

Mannion had a chance to give the WIldcats the win in the final seconds, too. But he first missed a six-foot floater and, after the ball eventually went out of bounds, giving UA a last chance to inbound the ball for a final shot with 2.1 seconds left, Mannion’s pass went off Green’s hands.

The ball landed instead in the hands of Oregon's Payton Pritchard, who threw the ball overhead as time expired.

The loss dropped UA to 11-4 overall and 1-1 in the Pac-12, with a two-day break ahead before the Wildcats face Oregon State in Corvallis on Sunday. Ninth-ranked Oregon improved to 13-3 and 2-1.

Wildcats shot 45% from the field and made 8 for 20 3-pointers after making a combined 7 for 31 from long range over their past two games.

Neither team scored for the first minute of overtime, with Josh Green darting down the right sideline for a layup to give UA a 68-66 lead with 3:48 left. But the Wildcats missed two shots that normally go in: A runner along the baseline from Mannion and a wide-open 3 from Jemarl Baker, allowing Oregon to take a 71-68 lead when Will Richardson made a three-point play with 2;28 left.

Mannino came back with a pullup 3-pointer to tie the game at 71 with 1:35 left. On Oregon’s next possession, Pritchard missed a 3-pointer but the Ducks rebounded his missed shot, and Pritchard drew a foul, making 1 of 2 to give Oregon a 72-71 lead with 48 seconds left.

UA coach Sean Miller then called a timeout with 42 seconds left and, after Dylan Smith bounced the ball out of bounds while trying to find Zeke Nnaji along the left baseline, Josh Green stole the ball from Oregon and drove in for a layup that gave UA a 73-72 lead with 21 seconds left.

But Oregon’s Will Richardson drove inside on the other end of the court for a layup to give Oregon a 74-73 lead and Arizona failed to score on its final possession.

Entering the final minute of regulation, Arizona was in position to grow a 66-64 lead but Mannion lost control of the ball in the middle of the Ducks’ defense and Oregon called a timeout with 44 seconds left after it was unable to hit a quick shot.

After the timeout, Pritchard hit a 12-foot turnaround jumper to tie it and Arizona had a chance for a final game-winner but, after Mannion passed Nnaji about 17 feet from the basket, Nnaji missed the ensuing jumper.

The Wildcats held the lead for all but four of the game’s first 15 minutes but the Ducks took a 60-57 lead with 5:34 left after Pritchard and Chris Duarte hit 3-pointers on back-to-back Oregon possessions, with Pritchard first tying the game after Richardson picked up a loose ball and dished it to Pritchard.

Two free throws and a layup from Nnaji, after Dylan Smith drove inside and passed to Nnaji just right of the basket, gave UA the lead back at 61-60. Smith later canned a 3 from the top of the key go put UA ahead 64-60.

After Arizona led the entire first half, Oregon had a layup from Chris Duarte and a dunk by Francis Okoro to take a brief two-point lead early in the second half. But a jumper from Mannion and 3-pointer from Dylan Smith gave UA a 43-38 lead with 16:51 left and the Wildcats held a slight lead for most of the next 10 minutes before Pritchard tied it 57 with a 3-pointer 6:12 left

Nnaji hit double-figure rebounds in the first half alone, grabbing 10 before halftime while guard Nico Mannion had 10 points.

Their efforts helped UA lead the entire first half, taking leads of up to 11 points before Oregon cut it to one possession at the end.

Mannion sparked the Wildcats early, scoring their first three field goals while the Wildcats kept Oregon scoreless for over four minutes to start the game.

The Wildcats had a 7-0 lead before Oregon’s Payton Pritchard hit a 3-pointer with 15:36 left in the half and took leads of up to 11 points later in the half before the Ducks cut into their lead late in the half, succeeding at times with a zone and some fullcourt presses.

The Ducks were playing without starting forward C.J. Walker because of back and knee injuries.

Knowing the Wildcats could be in for a rough weekend ahead at Oregon and Sunday at Oregon State, Miller set the big picture in front of them.

“The one thing is, we can't panic if the win or loss doesn't bounce our way,” Miller said. “We have 17 games ahead of us and I think we know who our team is. We're trying to improve and the one thing we don't have on our side, for sure, is experience. And we have three (freshmen) players that we count on a lot, that this is their first Pac 12 road trip, their first time playing at Oregon. So with that, we have to be smart. We can't panic.”

Contact sports reporter Bruce Pascoe at 573-4146 or bpascoe@tucson.com. On Twitter @brucepascoe

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Bruce is a veteran Star sports reporter who has also worked at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He graduated from Northwestern University and has an MBA from Thunderbird.

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