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Pac-12 men: Oregon cranks up defense, holds off Arizona 59-54

Oregion guard Victor Bailey Jr., defends against Arizona guard Brandon Williams in the second half on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019, in Tucson, Ariz. Oregon defeated Arizona 59-54. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)
Oregion guard Victor Bailey Jr., defends against Arizona guard Brandon Williams in the second half on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019, in Tucson, Ariz. Oregon defeated Arizona 59-54. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)
Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. – Oregon could feel the tide shifting. Arizona had found an offensive rhythm, the fans inside McKale Center rising and roaring with each made shot.

Unlike a week earlier, when they blew a seemingly-insurmountable lead against UCLA, the Ducks turned back the charge and earned a win in one of college basketball’s toughest environments.

Call it a lesson learned.

Dominant defensively early and poised down the stretch, Oregon played a second straight solid all-around game since losing to the Bruins, holding off Arizona 59-54 Thursday night.

Paul White scored 16 points and Victor Bailey Jr. added 13 for the Ducks, who blew an eight-point lead in the final 45 seconds against UCLA.

“UCLA helped us, maybe getting punched in the face, guys knowing they need to step up,” Bailey said.

The once-fast Ducks have had to slow down in recent games due to a string of injuries, relying on their defense rather than outscoring opponents.

Oregon (11-6, 2-2 Pac-12) got Kenny Wooten back after missing four games with a broken jaw, though he played limited minutes and star freshman Bol Bol was on the bench in a walking boot.

The Ducks still stuck to their shut-them-down game plan, hounding Arizona (13-5, 4-1) into one miss after another while building a 13-point lead midway through in the second half.

The Wildcats found an offensive rhythm and pulled within 55-51 on Dylan Smith’s 3-pointer with 1:24 left. Smith hit another 3 to get Arizona within 57-54 with four seconds left, but Payton Pritchard hit two free throws to seal it.

Chase Jeter had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Arizona, which shot 36 percent and went 6 for 22 from the 3-point arc.

“You have to give their defense credit,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “We were out of sorts, never could get into an offensive rhythm. Several of our guys had a tough night shooting it.”

Arizona took control of the early Pac-12 race after an uneven run through its nonconference schedule. The Wildcats opened conference play with wins over Colorado and Utah at home and had a road sweep of the Bay Area schools last week.

The Ducks had a rough start to the Pac-12, losing to rival Oregon State and blowing the big lead in an overtime loss to UCLA. Oregon bounced back with a 21-point win over USC in one of its best all-around games of the season.

The Ducks were good on the defensive end against Arizona, holding the Wildcats without a field goal for nearly eight minutes while building a nine-point lead. Oregon held Arizona to 23 points, 8-of-27 shooting, including 2 for 11 from the 3-point arc and forced nine turnovers to lead by eight at halftime.

“The first eight minutes or so, we took some tough, challenged 3s,” Miller said. “We had gotten away from that and it served us well. At halftime I would say we didn’t have nine turnovers, we really had 14 because we took five just horrible, challenged, selfish shots.”

The defensive shutdown continued to start the second half. Arizona missed 11 of its first 12 shots and Oregon stretched the lead to 39-26.

After more than 30 minutes of struggling, the Wildcats finally found a way to solve Oregon’s defense, trimming the Ducks lead to 45-41 with eight minutes left.

It didn’t last. Arizona had a scoreless drought of more than three minutes and Oregon stretched the lead to nine, then held the Wildcats off down the stretch.

“It was big for us to make big plays on the defensive end and offensive end,” White said.

Arizona State 70, Oregon State 67

TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State’s struggles at the free throw line helped Oregon State mount a late comeback. But when the Sun Devils needed two foul shots the most, Rob Edwards delivered.

Edwards’ 13 points included two clutch free throws with 12.1 seconds to play, and Arizona State held on to hand Oregon State its first Pac-12 loss of the season.

Edwards is statistically the top free throw shooter for Arizona State among regular players at 23 of 26 on the season.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself when I shoot from long range,” Edwards said, “so when I’m at the free throw line, that’s close range so I don’t think about missing at all.”

The Sun Devils (12-5, 3-2 in Pac-12) have won 10 straight games over the Beavers at Wells Fargo Arena.

Zylan Cheatham had 10 points and 13 rebounds, and five Sun Devils scored in double figures to offset a pair of 21-point performances from Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle and Ethan Thompson.

Oregon State rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit to trail by one and almost took the lead.

Cheatham slammed home a missed shot for a 68-64 lead, but Tinkle hit from distance again to make it a one-point game with 22 seconds left. Oregon State stole the ball on the inbounds pass after a timeout but turned the ball over a moment later.

With the crowd abuzz from watching the home team’s lead evaporate so fast, Edwards hit a pair of free throws – his only two of the night – and Thompson’s 3 to tie the game was rushed and well off target at the buzzer.

“He’s definitely a guy that I trust,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said of Edwards.

The Sun Devils turned a nine-point halftime lead into a 40-22 advantage with a fast start to the second half. They scored the first nine points while the Beavers missed their first six attempts.

Oregon State (11-5, 3-1) made it a tight game in the final minutes with a furious comeback, but came up short.

“We were supposed to be the aggressor to start the second half. They were,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. “But then, we found a group to get some momentum going and made it interesting.”

Arizona State opened the game making just one of its first seven shots and trailed 10-4 before going on a 10-0 run.

The Beavers went ice cold, going more than eight minutes without a field goal in the first half. The Sun Devils went ahead 26-15 on a 3 from Edwards at the 4:20 mark.

Arizona State finished the half up 31-22. Neither team shot well in the first 20 minutes, but Oregon State was just 7 of 27 as a team. Arizona State made only 4 of 10 free throws in the first half.

Thompson had 10 of his points in the first half, reaching double figures for the 10th time in his last 11 games and 11th time this season overall.

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