McConnell scores 21 points to lead No. 7 Arizona over Oregon
With all the offensive weapons that No. 7 Arizona possesses, point guard T.J. McConnell figured it was only a matter of time before he would be called on to score.
McConnell took advantage of Oregon’s defensive tactics Thursday night for a season-high 21 points, and all five Wildcats scored in double figures during an 80-62 victory over the Ducks.
"I kind of knew when Pac-12 play started that they were going to try to force me to score," McConnell said. "When I was driving they kind of stayed on their man, so it freed up the shot for me and I just knocked them down tonight."
The win was the second for Arizona (14-1, 2-0) in its last five meetings with the Ducks (11-4, 1-1), and its first at Matthew Knight Arena, which opened in 2011.
"This is a hard place to play," Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. "Obviously a fantastic arena and a tough crowd, but most important, a very good team."
The Wildcats made it look easy at times. They got 14 points from Stanley Johnson, 13 from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in his second start of the season and 11 from Kaleb Tarczewski. Brandon Ashley scored 10.
Joseph Young, the Pac-12’s leading scorer at 20.1 points per game, led Oregon with 12. Jordan Bell added 11.
"Rondae did an excellent job on Joe Young," Miller said. "His length and his determination were a big reason we won."
Arizona had a 40-27 edge in rebounds, led by Tarczewski with 10 and Hollis-Jefferson with nine. The Wildcats shot 27 of 56 from the field (48.2 percent).
McConnell, who had 12 points in the second half, took advantage of the way Oregon defended him when his teammates set picks for him at the top of the key or on the wings.
"I was setting a lot of high ball screens for him," Tarczewski said, "and I saw that their guy was going under, so I moved my ball screen down a little bit and it got him open.
"He did a great job of being aggressive on offense. I think everyone did that."
The Wildcats hit their comfort zone with an 11-3 run to start the second half that pushed their lead back to double digits at 50-37. That grew to 55-41 minutes later when the pesky McConnell found Gabe York on the left wing for a wide-open 3-pointer.
The Ducks cut it to 58-48 on Bell’s layup and Young’s dunk off a steal midway through the second half, but after Elgin Cook fouled out with 8:31 left, the air mostly was gone from Oregon’s balloon.
Young’s 3 brought the Ducks within nine with 5:32 to go, but they got no closer as the Wildcats paraded to the foul line, hitting 24 of 30 for the game.
"We’re a better free throw shooting team than we’ve shown for most of this year," said Miller, whose team came in shooting 65.9 percent from the line.
Oregon didn’t have a player in double figures until Bell, whose three blocks tied him with Tony Woods for Oregon’s single-season record with 51 in just 15 games, made two free throws with 6:42 to play.
"Ball movement was not good tonight," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "The physicality of the game got to us. We got outrebounded terribly.
"Their athleticism really hurt us there. We got out of whack. We had a lot of bad offensive possessions."
CLOSE DOESN’T QUITE COUNT
Tarczewski had 10 points by halftime, including two dunks to give him 92 for his career. He nearly had a third but was rejected by Dillon Brooks on his way up, with the rebound landing in Bell’s lap after he fell to the floor beneath the basket.
DUCKS ADD A BIG MAN
Oregon added a 10th scholarship player with the signing of Israeli junior national player Roman Sorkin on Tuesday. The 6-foot-10 forward from Minsk, Belarus, averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game for Israel at the 2014 U-18 European Championships. Sorkin, a freshman, is immediately eligible after enrolling for winter term, but Altman said he’s likely to redshirt this season.
Arizona: How young are the Wildcats? The player closest to cracking Arizona’s top 75 career scorers is Tarczewski, who has 721 points in 87 games. He still needs 68 to catch Loren Woods for 75th place.
Oregon: Halfway through his senior season, Young is closing in on becoming the 33rd Ducks player to score 1,000 career points. Young has 936 points in 47 games at Oregon, after scoring 916 in two seasons at Houston before transferring.
Arizona plays at Oregon State on Sunday night.
Oregon hosts Arizona State on Saturday.