TUCSON, Ariz. — Dana Altman has figured out a few formulas to beat Arizona.
On Thursday, the Ducks were able to slow the pace for a 59-54 victory in front of 14,032 at McKale Center that matched the fewest points they have scored in any of Altman’s eight victories over the Wildcats.
“It was a rock fight, but that was probably our best hope to get a win,” said Altman, who is 8-8 against Arizona with the Ducks. “Just not giving them a lot of fast-break points and not letting the crowd into it.”
Arizona is now 91-5 at McKale during the past six seasons, the fewest home losses for any program in the country during that span. Oregon has two of those victories after taking the lead with 7:08 left in the first half and never letting it go.
“Playing here, the crowd is always tremendous,” UO sophomore Victor Bailey said. “That can be a factor so we had to keep our heads in it.”
One week after blowing a nine-point lead in the final minute of a home loss to UCLA, Oregon fought off a few late runs by the Wildcats.
The Ducks (11-6, 2-2 Pac-12 Conference) took their biggest lead at 39-26 before Arizona scored four straight points. After a turnover by Paul White, Ryan Luther drove to the basket before White drew a charge, the fifth time he has done that in the past three games.
“Playing in this environment, any time we don’t score and they score, the crowd instantly gets into it,” White said. “It felt like they were on the verge of making a serious run but luckily that charge threw them out of rhythm.”
Chase Jeter scored to get the Wildcats within 47-43 with 6:16 left, but Payton Pritchard followed with two free throws for Oregon before White got a tip-in following a miss by Bailey to put the Ducks up 51-43.
Brandon Randolph made a three-pointer to get Arizona within 52-48 with 2:07 to play. Pritchard ran down the clock before passing to Bailey, who made a three-pointer just before the shot clock expired.
“We were just really trying to keep that lead,” Bailey said. “They kind of jumped on us and got going. That wasn’t a called play. Payton hit me and I hit the shot.”
With Oregon up 55-51, Pritchard missed a layup with 58 seconds left, but got the rebound and brought the ball out to run the clock down for another 28 seconds before missing a three-pointer.
“Little things we were able to do to finish the game,” Altman said.
Free throws were all that remained for Oregon to close out the Wildcats, and Louis King and Pritchard each made two in the final 20 seconds to give Arizona (13-5, 4-1) its first conference loss.
White had 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field to lead the Ducks while Bailey added 13 points.
Sophomore Kenny Wooten returned after missing four games with a broken jaw to contribute five points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot in 24 minutes.
“He gave us a good lift,” Altman said. “Probably the difference in the game.”
Arizona shot 36.5 percent from the field and made 6-of-22 three-pointers. Randolph, the Wildcats’ leading scorer with 16.3 points per game, finished with five on 2-for-9 shooting and was scoreless in the first half.
“We are not a high-powered offensive team,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “We have to execute, we can’t take bad shots. We have to move the ball and be patient. I wish we would have done a better job in that area.”
Arizona had 12 fast-break points while finishing with a season low in points.
“We wanted them to react off us, not us off of them,” Bailey said. “We did a good job keeping the pace where we wanted it to be and it worked out in our favor.”
Arizona led 16-11 before Will Richardson scored for Oregon and Bailey followed with seven straight points to put the Ducks ahead 20-16. When Arizona closed within 26-23 in the final minute of the first half, Bailey hit a three-pointer and Pritchard got a steal and layup to put the Ducks ahead 31-23 at the break.
King, who led Oregon with nine rebounds, opened the second half with a three-pointer. White scored five straight points to push Oregon’s lead to 39-26.
After dropping their first two conference games at home including the improbable collapse against UCLA, the Ducks have won two straight to get back into the middle of an unpredictable Pac-12 race.
“The losses we’ve taken, we learned from them and I think our team has done a great job responding,” White said. “I wanted to make sure that everyone understood our season isn’t over with those two losses.”