Arizona Basketball

PAC-12 TOURNEY NOTES: Arizona to face Oregon in semifinals in last game as conference rivals

Caleb Love looks to penetrate or pass while guarded by USC’s Boogie Ellis (Gilbert Alcaraz/Special to

LAS VEGAS — Arizona will put its 7-0 record in the Pac-12 tournament under third-year coach Tommy Lloyd on the line Friday night when the top-seeded Wildcats face No. 4 Oregon in the semifinals at T-Mobile Arena.

The game between Arizona (25-7) and Oregon (21-11) — the last of its kind in a conference affair with the Pac-12 disbanding — will tip off 5 p.m., Tucson time. The early Vegas odds has Arizona as an 11-point favorite.

Arizona won both games against Oregon handily during the regular season, 87-78 at Eugene, Ore., on Jan. 27 and 103-83 at McKale Center on March 2.

“We’re going to have to do a better job defensively,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said about playing Arizona after allowing the Wildcats to score 190 points in the two meetings this year. “We can’t walk down and just let them set up their defense every time. We’ll have to get some transition.

“But they’re a little deeper than us, and we gotta be careful about just getting into a shooting contest with them.”

Since the turn of the century, Arizona has six Pac-10/12 tournament championships (2002, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2022 and 2023) while Oregon has five (2003, 2007, 2013, 2016 and 2019).

Arizona has the most overall championships with nine, Oregon is next with five and UCLA third with four.

Lute Olson will go down in history as the coach with the most Pac-10/12 tournament titles with four.

Altman, Sean Miller (Arizona) and Lorenzo Romar (Washington) are next with three. Lloyd can tie Altman, Miller and Romar with a championship, the last in conference history.

The Ducks are 3-2 against Arizona in the tournament.

The Wildcats won the last Pac-12 tournament matchup between the programs in the 2017 championship game, an 83-80 victory led by Allonzo Trier’s 23 points.


USC’s Kobe Johnson said after Wednesday’s opening-round win over Washington that the Trojans will “apply the pressure and physicality to (Arizona) right away” in Thursday’s quarterfinal game after they were effective in doing so five days ago in Los Angeles in a 78-65 win over the Wildcats.

“I felt like last game we did a perfect job shutting down their best players with physicality,” Johnson added. “As long as we do that, we’ll be in a good spot to do it again.”

Johnson tied his career-high with six of USC’s 15 steals in that game.

He had no steals Thursday in the Trojans’ 70-49 loss to the Wildcats.

USC finished with only six steals.

Arizona had 10 steals led by Kylan Boswell’s three in Thursday’s win.

“We took that (Johnson’s comments) as motivation,” KJ Lewis said. “We wanted to be the enforcer today. I think we did a great job. It starts with ‘O’ (Oumar Ballo) and it goes to everybody else. I think that helped us with the win.”


Altman likes Arizona’s defensive pressure, especially in the halfcourt, that he went so far as to compare it to the Wildcats’ lineup last year that included Kerr Kriisa and Courtney Ramey at the guard positions, Cedric Henderson Jr. and Azuolas Tubelis at forward and Ballo at the post.

“Their halfcourt defense is really good,” Altman said of this year’s lineup that includes Boswell, Caleb Love, Pelle Larsson, Keshad Johnson and Ballo as starters and Jaden Bradley and KJ Lewis off the bench. “I don’t like commenting on other teams, but if you take Arizona’s defense this year compared to last year, I think it’s a lot better. I don’t know what KenPom says. But their activity is pretty good.

“If you don’t push it at all and let them set their defense every time, I think they’re pretty good in the half court. I think they can play a lot of different ways. It’s just a matter of how the flow goes.”

The statistics slightly favor last year’s team defensively.

Arizona last season allowed 71.1 points a game while opponents shot 40.8 percent from the field, 32.3 percent from 3-point range.

This season, opponents are averaging 72.4 points a game and making 42.3 percent of shots from the field. Arizona is allowing opponents to shoot 33.5 percent beyond the arc.


Arizona’s starting point guard Kylan Boswell had two points on 1-of-8 shooting from the field but he had three assists and led the Wildcats with three steals in the win over USC.

Boswell said his teammates tell him to “always stay confident” and be a sparkplug for the team.

“Whether I’m doing well offensively or defensively, or both, I can get guys going,” he added. “For me, on the defensive end I have to bring my effort and that will carry over to the offensive end.”

He mentioned that Caleb Love is one of his mentors that he communicates with the most.

“Four-year senior, one of the biggest names in college basketball, Pac-12 Player of the Year, in the running for Wooden Player of the Year,” Boswell said. “That’s one of the guys I come to and talk to about certain stuff, if I’m feeling certain ways, if I’m out there and I don’t know what to do in certain situations, I always talk with him.”

When asked what he can do going forward in his career after learning from Love, Boswell said, “His mentality I feel is the best thing for me. He’s always confident. He’s always being aggressive. He doesn’t let one missed shot or one mistake faze him. That’s probably one of the biggest things I can take from him.”

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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. He became an educator in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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