Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 1/10/13
Arizonas unbeaten joyride came to an end Thursday night. No surprise it came on the Oregon Trail, where things have always been tough for the Wildcats, although it came on their first trip to Oregon's Matthew Knight Court, with the Ducks prevailing 70-66. It didnt come without another rally from the Cats, but what would an Arizona game be without some late drama? The Wildcats didnt have an answer for the Ducks until they rallied with an 11-2 run to make it interesting and provide the usual hold-your-breath moments Arizona games have offered up lately. Arizona was down 65-52 with just under six minutes left before the last-ditch effort began. When Mark Lyons, who had a game-high 21 points, hit an acrobatic 3-pointer with 1:18 left, UA was down 67-63 and had hope. But that wasn't enough. With the loss, Arizona fell to 14-1 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12. Oregon, still unbeaten at home this year, is 14-2 overall and 2-0 in conference play. There are only two undefeated teams left in Division I -- Duke and Michigan -- following Oregon's storm-the-court upset Thursday night. "I think we've been playing really well the whole season," Oregon forward E.J. Singler said. "I think we're a really good team. This game really showed our team we can compete with a lot of different people." Arizona coach Sean Miller recognized as much and blamed his teams defense -- or lack thereof -- for the loss. The Wildcats just couldnt consistently stop the high-flying Ducks, although Miller did say that he thought his team owned the second half. Problem was, Arizona gave away the first half after starting the game with an 11-0 lead. Oregon once again showed UA must improve with its perimeter defense, as the Wildcats allowed the Ducks to go 7 for 11 from 3-point range and 25 of 52 (48 percent) overall. It was the defense, Miller said, that wasnt good enough to win. My biggest concern is that weve lost our defense, Miller said in his postgame radio show. (Its) not lost forever, but since the second half of the Utah game (on Jan. 5), weve picked and chosen our effort level. And we didnt do the things we needed to do to close that game out. And winning at home against Utah and trying to beat Oregon on the road are two totally different things. Arizona pulled off the former -- in dramatic fashion, taking the lead with under 10 seconds left and then holding on -- but couldnt in the latter despite its best efforts. In fact, UA had a chance to tie the score with less than 10 seconds left after a deep 3-pointer by sophomore Nick Johnson, but Johnson rushed what turned out to be Arizonas last chance to tie it, fumbling the ball away just shy of UAs free throw line. The Wildcats had no timeouts left. Youre on the road at Oregon and pushing it, its a one-possession game, Miller said of the turnover. It just didnt work out. Oregon followed with a free throw that effectively ended it. Arizonas dose of reality -- a loss was looming after close-call wins over San Diego State, Colorado and Utah -- hit, not surprisingly, on the road. "We lost to a team that played an excellent game on their home court, Miller said. Its not easy to win every game, but (winning) on the road in college basketball is very difficult. You have to be ready and execute. Arizona didnt do so well enough, particularly late in the first half, when the Wildcats were outscored by the Ducks 19-5 over the final eight minutes. To win on the road, you have to be excellent, Miller said. Weve won games with our offense where it was tonight, but from a defensive perspective, we really struggled. Oregon, meanwhile, was excellent. And one cant exactly call it an ambush: The Ducks entered the game on a 16-game home court win streak. That run is now at 17, and it's the best streak for Oregon on its home court since 2001-02. Miller said teams overcome adversity with a collective will -- and not just on offense. While the Wildcats have shown a penchant for doing just that this season, on Thursday it came too late and against a team Miller said is good enough to be ranked. "They're a team that's won 14 (games)," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "You could see their confidence even when they were down late." Arizona played more curious than aggressive, and at times, the offense appeared chaotic, taking too many too-quick or questionable shots. The Wildcats also had 14 turnovers -- 10 of those being Oregon steals -- that led to 21 points for the Ducks. And there will be no chance for revenge for the Cats, as this was their only meeting of the season against the Ducks. The Oregon schools will not make the return trip to Tucson this season due to the leagues unbalanced schedule. So Arizona must continue on to face Oregon State (10-4, 0-1 Pac-12), which is a bit more methodical than Oregon. Miller said he spoke to the team at great length after Thursday night's loss about the conference race and how very rare it is to get sweeps on the road. "The best team in your league can get two, Miller said. To get one is the goal -- (not that) thats the goal ahead of time. You want to get one. And protect your own court. (Attention will) shift to Oregon State. "You cant love your team and youre players when you win and then, when you lose a hard-fought game at Oregon ... say they are terrible and you hate them. It doesnt work like that."
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