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March 8, 2014

No. 3 Arizona, surging Oregon clash in finale

Pac-12 Conference regular-season champion Arizona has won its previous five games but is a team with little left to play for Saturday afternoon.

The third-ranked Wildcats will have to overcome streaking Oregon, a team with everything to play for and looking to bolster its case for an NCAA tournament bid.

Tipoff of the regular-season finale is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. PT at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore.

"We want to finish this season out as strong as possible," said UA leading scorer Nick Johnson, who scored a career-high 25 points Wednesday at Oregon State. "We don't want to take an 'L,' and not play hard, because that carries over to the next game.

"We have ourselves a little momentum going here."

Johnson, one of 15 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award and frontrunner for Pac-12 player of the year, also collected six rebounds, four assists and three steals in the 74-69 win over the Beavers.

Arizona (28-2, 15-2 Pac-12), however, shot just 42.1 percent - its worst performance in five games - and was outrebounded 43-34.

Wildcats head coach Sean Miller was not pleased with the Pac-12's top rebounding team's effort on the glass.

"To be outrebounded on the road and still win, we'll take it," Miller said.

"This is a reminder that in March, teams are desperate."

No team in the Pac-12 may embody desperate more than the Ducks (21-8, 9-8 Pac-12), who have won six games in a row.

After rolling through the nonconference schedule perfect and adding a 13th consecutive win to open the season at the start of league play, Oregon lost five in a row and then dropped to 2-8 in Pac-12 play on Feb. 8.

Five of the losses were decided by four points or less, including a 67-65 decision Feb. 6 in the first contest at Arizona, and the once fourth-ranked Ducks found themselves in danger of missing the NCAA tournament.

But among those who have elevated his play recently is Mike Moser, a senior who is among a handful of key transfers looking to come together for one final push to earn a tournament bid.

The 6-8, 211-pound forward is averaging 19 points over the last five games and 16.3 boards over the last three.

"We're trying to play on that type of level, like it's an NCAA game right now," Moser told the school's official website. "We just want to keep playing as if we're not in the tournament, keep fighting."

Oregon is now looking to avenge the previous meeting with Arizona and score its biggest win of the season.

The Wildcats - who were playing their first full game since losing forward Brandon Ashley for the season - won despite being outrebounded by five, missing 12 of 16 3-pointers and clanking 16 free throws.

"We all owe Arizona something," Ducks head coach Dana Altman said.

"You got to be careful. Arizona is used to being in this situation; they've been in this situation all year. We've had our backs against the wall all year. This is one that's a little different for us, but our guys will be OK."

The Wildcats are in strong contention for a No. 1 seed, and possibly the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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