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January 10, 2013

No. 4 Arizona to face stiff test at hostile Oregon

Before Kaleb Tarczewski took the court for his first collegiate road game, the freshman 7-footer distinctly remembers his point guard's words.

"This is where the fun starts," Mark Lyons said.

Fourth-ranked Arizona is now back on the road for its first Pac-12 Conference trip, which starts Thursday at Oregon followed by Saturday's trek to Oregon State.

Tipoff against the Ducks (12-2, 1-0 Pac-12) is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT.

While the Wildcats (14-0, 2-0 Pac-12) come into the contest as one of just three remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball, the Ducks will put their 16-game home winning streak on the line at Matthew Knight Arena.

"It's kind of unique experience when you're going into someone else's home court and everyone's rooting against you," Tarczewski said. "It kind of gets you motivated. It's really a great feeling."

For both Lyons and Tarczewski, as well of host of other newcomers, it is their first trip through the league slate. For the entire team, it also will be the first contest at Oregon's hostile, state-of-the-art facility.

Known for its loud crowds, the arena also features a floor that is like no other. The design has the words "Deep in the Woods" on the court and is framed by trees.

"I don't know," UA head coach Sean Miller said. "I mean, I'm not going to tell my guys not to run where the trees are. They're all over the place."

But for as distracting as the court may be, Arizona's focus is locked in on quieting its doubters. Despite the unblemished mark, the 'Cats dropped a spot in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Miller called the Wildcats "fortunate" after a 92-83 overtime win last week against Colorado, which nearly escaped with the victory in regulation before officials disallowed a banked, 3-pointer as time expired. UA followed that up with a lackluster performance in a 60-57 win over Utah, which was picked to finish last in the league's preseason media poll.

But, like the road, Lyons said he "relishes" moments of doubt and uses words to "fuel" his motivation.

"I just like when people talk to me and root against me," Lyons said. "That's the type of thing I grew up with, people doubting me and things like that.

"I hear the little things they say. I don't get into it, like going back and forth with the crowd. But I hear the things they say."

Arizona will try to find a shooting touch that has escaped the team in recent games. The team has connected on just 39 percent of its shot attempts over the last three games after shooting 48.6 percent through the first 11 this season.

The task will not be easy, however, as the Ducks have held five opponents below 50 points this season.

Oregon, led by five double-figure scorers including freshman Damyean Dotson (11.8 points per game), is in search of its fourth consecutive win. Dotson poured in a season-best 21 points in a 79-66 win over the in-state rival Beavers to open Pac-12 play.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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