When No. 12 Arizona cut the deficit to two points midway through the second quarter against No. 3 Oregon, the belief was there. The chance to take command was before them.
And the unflappable Ducks, conquerors of UConn on the road this week and winners of nine straight games, seized that chance.
Oregon (21-2, 10-1 Pac-12) overpowered the upstart Wildcats (18-4, 7-4) with an 85-52 win at Matthew-Knight Arena, improving to 12-0 at home. Arizona’s winless streak against top 10 opponents on the road is now at 61 games.
After Arizona scored eight unanswered points to cut the lead to 20-18 with 5:47 left in the second quarter, Oregon went into overdrive and outscored the Wildcats 19-4 for the rest of the quarter to take a 39-22 lead at halftime.
The game snowballed out of Arizona’s hands, literally, with its rebounding struggles.
Oregon’s size with Satou Sabally (6-foot-5) and Ruthy Hebard (6-foot-4) was too much for the smaller Wildcats and that showed in the rebounding totals with the Ducks having a 40-24 edge. They pulled down 15 offensive rebounds, which led to 13 second-chance points. Arizona had only two offensive rebounds.
“I’m not really happy with how we played and how we competed,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said in her postgame radio show on KTUC. “When you continually give up offensive rebounds that’s a focus thing.
“It all started in the beginning. They got confidence with their offensive rebounding and we didn’t have anybody crashing 90 percent of the time.”
The Ducks’ 3-point shooting gave them the deadly inside-outside punch against the Wildcats. Oregon made 11 shots from beyond the arc, including five in the third quarter when the Ducks outscored Arizona 33-16 to pull away for good.
“We didn’t really step up and there was no sense of urgency when we were down by 20 and I don’t know why,” Barnes said. “They were way better and we didn’t come to play. I’m disappointed in that but you have to move on.”
Sabrina Ionescu’s 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter gave Oregon a 72-38 lead. Ionescu recorded her 24th career triple-double, third against Arizona (including one last month at McKale Center), with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Sabally had a near-triple-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Hebard finished with 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field.
The only suspense heading into the fourth quarter was whether Aari McDonald would score in double-figures after posting only six points at that point. She responded with that, scoring seven points in the final period to finish with 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting. She also had six assists.
Her double-figure scoring streak is still alive at 59 games, her entire career at Arizona and the longest active streak in the nation.
Cate Reese continued her late-season upswing with 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field. She finished with two rebounds. Sam Thomas, who had 20 points in last week’s rout of UCLA, went scoreless without a rebound in 25 minutes.
Taylor Chavez, a sophomore product of Valley Vista High School in Surprise, had 17 points for the Ducks. She was one of three Oregon players with three 3-pointers, joining Sabally and Ionescu.
Arizona must put this game behind it because a game at No. 9 Oregon State looms Sunday at Corvallis, Ore.
“We came here and got killed,” Barnes said. “Does that change the season? No, we just have to be able to compete. … You can’t make those mental mistakes. Those are things I’m disappointed in but we have to learn from it and get better.
“We’re not going to hang our heads. We can still go win a game on the road. I just wanted us to compete a little bit better.”
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.