(Tucson, AZ) An early noon start to the premier matchup of the season for the Wildcats as the #2 ranked Oregon Ducks came to town.
Oregon lost their last game up north to the Sun Devils on Friday night 72-66.
Ducks are long and physical led down low by Ruthie Hebard and outside from Sabrina Ionescu .
Arizona jumped out to a quick 7-3 lead, but Satou Sabally game right back for the Ducks with a three pointer, 7-6 Cats.
Coach Barnes wanted to put the pressure on Oregon early. McDonald hit a couple of threes that kept the Cats in front and had a 12-10 edge at the media time out with 4:51 left in the opening quarter.
Both teams went right at each other “mano a mano” back and forth with the Cats a basket better at 20-18 at the end of the quarter.
Oregon went on a 7-0 run before Sam Thomas hit a three pointer at the 6:25 mark of the second quarter for the Wildcat’s first points.
McDonald followed with an off the window trey from the top of the key to bring Arizona within two 28-26 just before the media timeout.
The Ducks started to pound the ball inside to Hebard and Sabally. Cate Reese had to take a seat on the bench with two fouls which opened up the middle. That helped Oregon outscore the Cats 17-6 in the quarter and a 35-26 halftime lead.
Oregon’s length hurt the Wildcats and allowed Hebard to get great position down low in the blocks.
Rebounding, which was a big concern for Arizona was all the Ducks in the first half, especially the offensive boards 8-1 in favor of the visitors from Eugene.
McDonald had half of Zona’s first half points with thirteen and a third of the team rebounds.
The Ducks went back to what worked for them in the first half, getting the ball down low for high percentage shots.
Cats were trading baskets and weren’t getting the defensive stops they needed to cut into the lead. At the media timeout Oregon had a 49-37 lead.
Rebounding continued to be a issue for Arizona. The big advantage that the Ducks have over almost all the conference teams is that the entire starting five can score.
Zona didn’t have the horses to keep Hebard and Sabally out of the paint, as Hebard had a double-double at the end of the third period.
The Cats played well the second half of the quarter as they cut the Oregon deficit to five 53-48 with one quarter to go.
The play got a lot more physical in the final period as body went flying as the Wildcats kept clawing at the Ducks.
At the final media timeout, it was a two posesiones game with 5;11 to go 58-52 Oregon.
Lucia Alonso drained a twenty foot three from the top of the key that pulled Zona within three at 60-57 with 3:51 left in the contest.
Down the stretch both teams showed they wanted this game. McDonald hit lights out three to bring the Cats within three, but Minyon Moore came right back with a layup for Oregon to out them back up by five 67-62.
The game came down to Arizona needing to make a defensive stop with 38.8 seconds and down by three 67-64.
Ionescu was fouled and hit both to give the Ducks a five point lead 69-64 now with only 20.7 seconds left.
Zona turned the ball over and Carter had to foul which sealed the victory for the Ducks, 71-64.
Arizona showed it can compete with anyone in the nation, this year much more than in previous seasons.
A tweak here, a tweak there and close losses will turn into victories. Barnes has a master plan and is way ahead of her timetable.
Quietly today, All American Ionescu had a triple double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to compliment Hebard and Sabally.
The Wildcats can take solace in that Oregon is one of the favorites to cut down the nets in the NCAA Tournament.
Today’s attendance was a season high 7,680 and they definitely got their money’s worth.