Arizona Basketball

Arizona falls to Oregon, loses first (and last) Pac-12 tourney game under Tommy Lloyd

Arizona’s Motiejus Krivas loses his balance going after the ball against Oregon’s Jermaine Couisnard (Gilbert Alcaraz/Special to

LAS VEGAS — Arizona had the crowd, a 14-point lead against Oregon in the first half and Tommy Lloyd as coach, he of the 7-0 record in the Pac-12 tournament here in his first three seasons.

Inexplicably, the energy dissipated almost immediately as if the plug was pulled.

Arizona, known for its unexplained lulls in its eight defeats this season, suffered another lapse at the most inopportune time.

A run to the last Pac-12 tournament championship in history (with the league disbanding) came to an abrupt end with Arizona’s 67-59 loss to Oregon in front of the partisan Arizona crowd at T-Mobile Arena.

“We just got stagnant,” Lloyd said. “We got a little bit stagnant. Generally, that’s not us. When it happened, maybe we had a few shots we hope we usually make and we didn’t.”

Arizona’s stagnant execution allowed a 27-13 lead with 6:52 left in the first half turn into a situation in which the Wildcats scored only 32 points the rest of the game.

The way the game turned was even more difficult to comprehend for Arizona (25-8) because the Wildcats beat Oregon 87-78 at Eugene, Ore., on Jan. 27 and 103-83 at McKale Center on March 2.

These are the same Ducks that outscored Arizona 44-26 in the second half Friday. They outrebounded the Wildcats 21-11 in the second half, producing nine second-chance points to Arizona’s two. The Wildcats had only two offensive rebounds after halftime.

“They’re a really talented team, really well-coached,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “They had a good crowd. Atmosphere was amazing for them. So with those things in mind, I mean, they kicked us twice. The score was only nine at our place, but they beat us. And they beat us at their place.

“So our guys — to have a belief that being down 10 at half, it wasn’t going our way. So for them to battle back, it was a very good half.”

As good as Oregon played behind the guard play of Jermaine Couisnard and Jackson Shelstad (combined 41 points on 15-of-37 shooting, 7 of 15 from 3-point range), Arizona’s perimeter players, specifically Caleb Love, Kylan Boswell and Pelle Larsson, played out of sorts.

They combined to shoot 6 for 23 from the field, 4 of 15 from 3-point range, with nine turnovers.

In their last three games:

— Love is shooting 7 of 34 from the field with 19 points and 11 turnovers.

— Boswell is 4 of 23 from the field with 11 points.

— Larsson has committed 12 turnovers.

Lloyd was asked specifically of Love’s struggles in the postgame presser and Lloyd mentioned:

“Caleb’s had a great season. We’re trying to do the best we can to lighten the load on him and make sure he knows he belongs with us. We love him. We love that guy. He just hasn’t played well. The one thing I know about him is he’s high character, he’s tough, he’s a fighter. And I expect him to come back full force next week.”

Altman said the struggles of Love and Boswell on Friday night is “just part of the game some nights.”

“Love killed us at our place (36 points) and he killed us at their place (22 points). He goes 1-for-7 (from 3-point range Friday),” Altman said. “Boswell, he lit it up at their place (7-of-9 shooting from the field and 23 points). He went 0-for-3 (from beyond the arc on Friday).

“Two guys that killed us in two previous games go 1-for-10 (with their 3-pointers).”

The game became strange early on.

Oregon big man N’Faly Dante left with 18:58 remaining in the first half and the game tied at 2 after Oumar Ballo maneuvered past him with a dunk.

Dante appeared to suffer a lower back injury and was taken to the locker room for X-rays, which did not show structural damage.

He returned with 7:41 left in the half and Arizona ahead 25-13.

The Wildcats hit a funk after Ballo’s layup put the Wildcats ahead 27-13 with 6:52 left before halftime.

Hard to believe: That was Ballo’s last attempt of the game although he made all five of his shots up to that point.

Arizona missed its last five shots of the half. The Wildcats also had five of their seven turnovers in that stretch.

Arizona still managed to lead 33-23 at halftime despite the erratic play.

“I told the guys at half we were fortunate to be down just 10,” Altman said. “I said, as poorly as we played and as unorganized as we had them there for about five or six minutes, we were fortunate to be only down 10.

“And so to come out the second half, and we got a pretty good start, I thought that was really important. So to only be down 10 and then to have a good start the second half, coaches always talk about the last four minutes of the first half, the first four minutes of the second half, how critical they are, and they are.”

An 11-3 run by Oregon gave the Ducks a 43-41 lead with 12:33 remaining.

Couisnard made a 3-pointer to cap that stretch, giving him 10 points in the half, outscoring Arizona at that point. The Wildcats had eight points.

Oregon extended its lead to 58-46 with a putback by Dante with 6:42 remaining.

At that point, the Ducks outscored Arizona 35-11 in the second half.

The Wildcats could not solve Oregon’s switching man-to-man and zone defenses. The Ducks played a zone defense after making shots and that happened frequently in the second half.

Arizona went on an 11-3 run to cut the lead to 63-59 with 1:26 remaining, but that proved to be a last gasp.

Love missed a 3-pointer with 38 seconds left that could have made it a one-point game.

After Shelstad made two free throws with 29 seconds left, Larsson missed a 3-pointer with 22 seconds remaining.

Kario Oquendo then made two free throws with 18 seconds left to make it a three-possession game.

Game over.

But not season over for Arizona, which will likely be a No. 2 seed when the NCAA tournament bracket is announced on Sunday.

“We’re a program that competes for championships,” Lloyd said. “Obviously we came here. We’ve got a
great fan base. We wanted to perform for them. And we weren’t able to. But as true competitors, we gotta keep our head high and go back and understand that the greatest challenges lie ahead.

“There’s going to be an amazing opportunity. The one thing I know about the character of our program is the guys respond. I’m looking forward to seeing their response.”

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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