Arizona Basketball

Oh, what an afternoon for Arizona: Rout Oregon to win ninth in 10 games

Talk about your senior moments – Arizona had them, and in bunches.

Arizona’s seniors said goodbye to their Arizona faithful in McKale Center in style, beating Oregon in near-record fashion, 103-83, in its final Pac-12 Conference home game. It was the first sweep of the Ducks since 2015.

Every senior had a hand in the one-sided matchup, one usually reserved for close calls and tough matchups. That wasn’t the case on Saturday afternoon as Arizona jumped out early and never looked back.

Again, it was the seniors who took control.

Whether it was first-time starter Grant Weitman, who stepped in for a first-minute steal to get the party started, or Caleb Love hitting – seemingly – shot after shot, or Pelle Larsson scoring and passing, or Keshad Johnson hitting a couple of 3-pointers or Oumar Ballo streaking to another double-double, they all gave the fans something to cheer about in what was an emotionally fun game.

UA seniors with friends and family. (photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

“Honestly, we talked about not being emotional,” head coach Tommy Lloyd said. “We talked about just coming out and just kind of staying locked in and doing our jobs.”

And, they did.

Emotions were to be for the post-game, although Lloyd introduced his departing seniors before the game, greeting their friends and family.

It all carried over to the tip and to the game-ending buzzer.

Weitman, a senior starting in place of sophomore Kylan Boswell, got a steal and Arizona started rolling.

“I knew to go for it,” he said. “It felt amazing to get that on the first play.”

What was he thinking on the start?

“Don’t do anything too special, just play within the system,” he said, adding it was an honor to get the start.

It then turned into an Oprah show: you get points, you get points, you get points and, well everyone (who is a senior and more) gets points.

Larsson and Love each had 22 points. Johnson had 21 points. Kylan Boswell had a career-high 19 points and Oumar Ballo had his ninth double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Every piece helped with the blowout puzzle. No corner pieces missing.

Love went 9 for 19 and added seven assists. And, one thunderous dunk.

“It means everything,” Love said. “It’s what you play the game for. Those fans, they give their everything. The energy and what they bring to the table – it helps us and lifts us up. Anytime we can show out and give them what they want to see, it’s special.”

Larsson was so pumped up after the game he said a couple of expletives to the crowd in his impromptu speech.

“I’ve just had the time of my life here at the University of Arizona and with these people,” he said, later. “I just wanted to do something special for them and for the people that support us.”

Arizona fans will remember that.

Ballo, once again, proved to not disappoint, even though it took almost all the game for him to register his double-double. When he eventually came out of the game, he thought:

 “Oh man, I’m gonna miss this.”

And Johnson, who did a quick dance after second 3-pointer, showed he has a bit of a personality.

 “I put in a lot of work throughout the summer,” he said, referring to his shooting. “Most importantly, I always knew I had it in me, it was just the confidence. The confidence that my teammates and my coaches give me here is second to none. That’s what really helped the ball go in, along with the work that I put in.”

It all added up to one of Arizona better games this season. UA has now won nine of 10 games and is 23-6 overall and 14-4 in the Pac-12. It was the seventh time this season UA has scored 100 or more points. It shot a season-high 61 percent from the floor and hit 14 of 25 3-pointers.

“I do like the way we’re trending,” Lloyd said. “I mean, other than the Washington State game, where obviously we got beat by a good team.”

Saturday, however, it did look like the Pac-12 champ (to be determined) in as much as that shooting percentage looks great and the team looked – again – like it did in November and most of December, when sharing the ball and finding the open man looked easy.

“We call them ‘my shots,’ and our program is built on our shots, so we just gotta  lock into our shots,” Lloyd said. “The definition can vary guy to guy what an ‘our shot’ is. I thought we just got settled in early in the game and just made sure the ball (was) finding the open guy and have your hands and feet ready locked and loaded. Or attack the paint, finish layups, play with your feet on the ground, look at cutters and just things we practice every single day.”

He added later when asked about going to the player with the hot hand – so many of them had it.

“I don’t have a find the hot-hand mantra,” he said. “Our deal is find the open man, and if the open man is hot. And he’s doing what we call his plan A, shot preparation … let it rip. That’s our mentality.”

Rip indeed.

The one who may have been most impressive may have been Boswell, who didn’t start. All his points came in the first half, going 7 for 9 from the floor for the game. And looked as comfortable on the floor as he ever has.

“That was awesome,” Lloyd said. “If I had a crystal ball and I knew that would happen every time I would start Grant Weitman and bring Kylan off the bench, but I don’t.”

Neither does Johnson, who wasn’t surprised by Boswell’s gift to the seniors.

 “The youngest on the team, but man his ceiling is crazy high,” Johnson said of Boswell. “He’s a young vet. I don’t know what was in his head, but I was just loving it on our senior night.”

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