It was a “White-Out” that brought a lot of white knuckles from tense moments.
No. 15 Arizona defeated No. 18 Oregon 79-71 in front of 7,963 fans, many wearing white t-shirts, in a “White-Out” at McKale Center on Sunday night.
The game’s flow was much different than a thrilling win over Oregon State on Friday night in which the Wildcats overcame a 12-point deficit in the final 3:57, closing the game on a 19-4 run.
Sunday’s games had 21 lead changes.
“Great, gritty win for us,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “This was a huge weekend at home. To bounce back after the Stanford loss (last Monday), and just kind of got manhandled in the Bay Area, to come back here and beat a really good, underrated Oregon State team that’s big, we’re talking 6′ 8” inside (Oregon State center Jelena Mitrovica), a good player that’s coached well. Then play another really big team in Oregon; these are two really big wins.
“This was a huge sweep for our program.”
Arizona (14-2, 4-1 Pac-12) was led by Madison Conner, who scored 16 points and had two assists, scoring three crucial 3-pointers after coming off the bench.
“I think what she was did was more impressive because she was cold, and having to come in and produce and just hit your shots, that’s hard to do,” Barnes said of Conner. “It’s hard to come in from the bench and hit a three. Usually it takes time to get into it, so I think she did a very good job at staying focused and bringing energy and scoring to our team when we needed it.”
With 5:36 remaining in the third quarter, Oregon (12-4, 3-2) was up 45-38 on Arizona.
Then, Conner and Shaina Pellington made 3-pointers on the next two possessions to cut Oregon’s lead to 45-44.
Fittingly, it was Conner who was fouled on a 3-point attempt on Arizona’s next possession. She would make all three free throws to put the Wildcats up 47- 45 with 3:24 left in the third quarter.
— Arizona Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) January 9, 2023
Chance Gray‘s 3-point jumper put the Ducks up 48-47 on the following possession.
Conner followed the shot with two made free throws. After a missed 3-point attempt by former ASU standout Taya Hanson, Conner hit a fast-break 3-pointer to put Arizona up 52-48 that got the raucous McKale Center crowd to its feet.
She also took a crucial offensive charge in the waning seconds of the third quarter that provided momentum for the team.
“I’m just kind of doing what I’m supposed to do — going out there and bringing energy,” Conner said. “When you come off the bench, you’re supposed to bring a spark, and I feel like I’m trying to do that in different ways, not just shooting the three That might be finding my teammates shots or taking charges or whatever it takes.”
Oregon would take the lead twice in the fourth quarter, each time by one point, before Arizona clawed back each time, extending the lead with late free throws to the eventual 79-71 win, it’s biggest lead of the entire game.
✨ McKale Magic ✨
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) January 9, 2023
Arizona went 4-1 in a five-game, 10-day stretch, beginning on Dec. 29 with Arizona State, including a 73-57 loss at No. 2 Stanford on Monday less than 48 hours after outlasting Cal.
“We’ve had the hardest stretch in the conference by far, which I’m not happy about, obviously,” Barnes said.
Oregon came out shooting a red-hot 73 percent from the field in the first quarter, compared to Arizona’s 35 percent.
The Ducks held a 26-19 lead after the first quarter.
After Oregon’s Te-Hina Paopao hit a 3-pointer with 8:41 remaining in the second quarter, the Ducks went ahead 28-20, their largest lead of the game.
The Wildcats would tie the game with a 3-pointer from Helena Pueyo, a jumper from Kailyn Gilbert and and a 3-pointer from Gilbert on the next three possessions.
Oregon led Arizona 35-34 at halftime.
One major difference in Sunday’s game from previous Arizona performances this season was its effectiveness from the free-throw line, going 15 of 19.
Coming into Sunday’s game, the Wildcats were shooting 65 percent from the line, ranking 281st nationally in that category.
Pellington came into the game shooting 57 percent from the stripe but finished the game going 4-of-4 from the line. Conner made all of her seven free-throw attempts.
“You work on the repetition of it but were not changing free-throw techniques in the game,” Barnes said. “We just shifted a couple things in Shaina. Shaina’s usually getting to the line, so she’s driving. She’s shooting most of the free throws, so when Shaina’s typically making her free throws, typically, overall, we’re making them.”
Arizona is leading the Pac-12 in attendance for the first time at this point in the season in program history. The Wildcats are averaging 7,351 a game after Sunday’s game.
Entering this season, Oregon averaged 8,522 fans per game at home since 2018-19. Home attendance has dipped in Eugene, Ore., this season, with an average of 6,113 fans a game, ranking the Ducks second in Pac-12 in attendance this year.
Arizona forward Maya Nnaji did not play for the second game in a row because she was in concussion protocol.
The Wildcats had five players score in double figures including Conner.
Pellington finished with 14 points and six assists, Jade Loville had 13 points, Esmery Martinez posted 11 points and 6 rebounds, and Cate Reese finished with 10 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Pueyo and Lauren Fields each had five points. Pueyo had five steals, and Fields finished with four steals.
Arizona next plays at the Rocky Mountain schools, beginning Friday at Colorado (13-3, 3-1) at 7 p.m. Tucson time.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.