Eugene, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - The surging Oregon Ducks will try to keep their hot streak alive heading into the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, as they finish off the regular season against the third-ranked Arizona Wildcats at Matthew Knight Arena.
Oregon, a team that rose to No. 10 in the national rankings earlier in the year, looked to be on its way to a disappointing finish in the beginning of February. However, the Ducks have saved themselves with wins in six straight games entering this bout with the Wildcats. They are now 21-8 overall, and 9-8 in league play.
Arizona's standing as the top team in the Pac-12 and one of the best in the country has rarely been challenged this season. The Wildcats own a sparkling 28-2 overall record and, aside from a pair of tough road losses to California (60-58) and Arizona State (69-66), have dominated against the rest of the Pac-12. They won the conference's regular season title and earned the top seed in the upcoming league tournament.
The Wildcats just slipped by Oregon (67-65) when these teams met on Feb. 6. The Ducks had won the previous two meetings, but Arizona has full control of the all-time series (46-25).
In their most recent outing, the Wildcats escaped with a 74-69 victory over Oregon State. Arizona struggled in shooting just 42.1 percent from the floor, but they outscored the Beavers 21-12 off turnovers. Nick Johnson bolstered his Pac-12 Player of the Year candidacy by tying the game-high with 25 points.
Arizona has supported its rather mediocre offensive production this season (74.1 ppg, .468 FG percentage) by clamping down on defense and attacking the glass. The Wildcats are sixth in the country in average yield (58.5 ppg) and ninth in opponent field goal percentage (.385). They are also a top-20 team in rebounds (39 rpg). Johnson (16.3 ppg) carries the team offensively and is one of the primary ball-handlers, although T.J. McConnell (8.3 ppg, 5.6 apg) has fit in nicely at the point after transferring from Duquesne. Freshman phenom Aaron Gordon (12 ppg, 7.8 rpg) has had an inconsistent year, while Kaleb Tarczewski (10.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) has played his best down the stretch, scoring in double figures in four straight games.
Oregon fended off a tough Arizona State squad in its most recent contest. The Ducks, who usually rely heavily on the backcourt, were instead powered from the inside in the contest. Mike Moser scored 22 points and collected 17 rebounds, and Waverly Austin contributed 10 boards and five blocks, both career-highs, in playing more than 20 minutes for just the third time this season.
The Ducks' strategy is a bit different than the Wildcats', as Oregon relies more on lighting it up on offense to collect victories. The system has been mostly successful for Dana Altman's squad, which is leading the Pac-12 and among the top-10 teams nationally in scoring (82.9 ppg). Heading up the effort is Joseph Young (18.6 ppg), as the 6-foot-2 guard, who transferred from Houston, has enjoyed the best year of his career, and is currently on pace for career-highs in scoring, field goal percentage (.471) and free-throw percentage (.892). Moser (13.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg), another transfer, anchors the team on the interior and Jason Calliste (12.3 ppg) and Damyean Dotson (10.4 ppg) lend support.