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January 10, 2013

Oregon hangs on, hands No. 4 Arizona first loss

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Fourth-ranked Arizona put itself in one double-digit deficit too many Thursday night at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore.

The Wildcats - who have battled back to stun opponents in recent weeks - trimmed a 13-point hole with 4:16 to play down to 3 with under a minute to play against Oregon. But unlike Florida, San Diego State and Utah before them, the Ducks did just enough to hold on, 70-66, to hand the 'Cats their first loss of the season.

Solomon Hill's 3-point play ignited a 14-4 burst, bookended by Nick Johnson's long-range basket with 52 seconds to play that made the contest a one-possession game. In that stretch, Oregon turned the ball over three times and missed two free throws to keep the door open.

After a Dominic Artis missed 3-pointer, Johnson corralled the loose ball and proceeded to dribble up the floor. But his turnover with 11 seconds to play appeared to be the final dagger in Arizona's 14-0 start to the season.

Instead, Johnathan Loyd split a pair of free throws with 9.2 seconds left to put the 'Cats (14-1, 2-1 Pac-12 Conference) on the ledge. Mark Lyons's missed 3 with three seconds left eventually ended the hopes of another frenetic comeback.

The Ducks (13-2, 2-0 Pac-12) overcame a slow start and double-digit deficit of their own in the victory. E.J. Singler scored a team-high 14 points while Carlos Emory, Tony Woods and Artis added 10 apiece for the Ducks, who shot 48.1 percent and connected on 7 of 11 3-pointers.

Lyons paced Arizona with a game-high 21 points and four assists, and Hill chipped in 16 points and six boards. The Wildcats converted 43.9 percent of their shots and struggled to get into much of an offensive rhythm against an Oregon zone defense that forced 14 turnovers.

To start the contest and perhaps change its recent offensive funk, Arizona made a change in the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 19. Brandon Ashley, who coincidentally made his first career start that night against Long Beach State, was pulled in favor of Kevin Parrom and it appeared to work early.

A team looking to quiet its doubters, the Wildcats roared to a quick 11-0 lead highlighted by three consecutive 3-pointers. But Oregon did not take long to answer, reeling off eight consecutive points - all within the first five minutes of action.

But the Ducks never let up, extending the spurt to 16-2.

Arizona's shooting then disappeared and produced just 19 points over the remaining 16:54 of the first half.

Oregon connected on 17 of 30 shots in the half and capitalized on seven UA turnovers. On one particular late sequence, a Lyons turnover and breakdown on defense by Kaleb Tarczewski led to an uncontested Woods dunk.

The Ducks went into the locker room with a 41-30 lead.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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