McConnell leads Arizona to big win over Oregon
Arizona coach Sean Miller repeatedly said he expected senior guard T.J. McConnell soon would have a breakout game on the offensive end. It came in game No. 15.
McConnell scored 21 points, seven shy of his career high set at Duquesne, and added three assists and only one turnover in 34 minutes and the No. 7 Wildcats beat Oregon 80-62 in Eugene, Ore.
"I thought T.J. McConnell was outstanding," Miller said on his postgame radio show.
McConnell shot 9 of 14 from the field.
Arizona dominated the Ducks in every important category, including rebounds (40-27), free throws (24-18) and shooting percentage (48 percent to 35 percent).
Miller said the categories are what the coaching staff has been talking about for three months.
"We’re plus-13 on the glass which included 10 offensive rebounds," Miller said. "That’s something we’ve really worked hard on."
While Arizona played well, Oregon Joseph Young, the Pac-12 Conference’s leading scorer at 20 points per game, was held to 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson helped contain Young as did McConnell and Elliott Pitts.
"We did a very good job of guarding him," Miller said.
It coincided with Oregon’s poor 3-point shooting, one of its key weapons. The Ducks were just 4 for 20 from beyond the arc.
"Our length (was a problem)," Miller said.
Miller said starting Hollis-Jefferson and freshman Stanley Johnson created problems for Oregon because of the duo’s athleticism. It was the first time this season the pair were in the starting lineup together.
"It gives us a bigger team," Miller said. "It was good to see."
Another, Miller said, was the play of junior center Kaleb Tarczewski, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"He started off confident; he started off physical and set the tone in many ways," Miller said. "
Arizona never trailed in winning its first game at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore., in beating the Ducks.
Arizona is 2-0 in the conference and 14-1 overall. Oregon is 11-4 and 1-1. It lost for the first time in six games.
The Wildcats head to Corvallis, Ore., to face Oregon State on Sunday.
"We have to be ready to go; it’s always a difficult place to play," Miller said.
For the second consecutive game Arizona shot admirably from the free throw line, hitting 24 of 30. It entered the game hitting just 65 percent from the line going into the game. Arizona outscored Oregon
"We’re a better free throw shooting team than we’ve shown," Miller said.
Arizona jumped out early to a 15-4 lead early but had to hold off an Oregon first-half run that put the Ducks within 35-32 with 1:57 left in the first half, but that’s as close as the Ducks got all night.
Miller called Arizona’s start in eerie in as much as Arizona jumped out to an early lead last year and Oregon came back. This year, however, Arizona proved more than capable in holding off the Ducks. Every time the Ducks had a run, Arizona had an answer.
"You have to give Oregon a lot of credit," Miller said. "They lost a ton of good players and a ton unexpectedly. But they’ve replenished with what they have. Joe Young is a really good player."
The sophomore Pitts did not come out of the locker room in the second half after he reportedly suffered a hand injury. It’s not clear what the injury is.