EUGENE — Oregon’s winning streak ended at three games Monday as the No. 11 Ducks fell to No. 10 Arizona in Matthew Knight Arena, 79-59.
The Ducks played a cleaner game offensively than they did in their loss at Arizona a month earlier. But Oregon’s normally reliable defense faltered in the second half Monday, as the Wildcats shot 64 percent over the final two quarters to win going away.
“They upped the intensity level and we didn’t go with them, unfortunately,” UO coach Kelly Graves said. “It’s just disappointing. … We did some good things tonight. But defensively we weren’t nearly on point like we were at their place.”
How It Happened: As was the case in Tucson on Jan. 14, the Ducks fell behind early Monday, as Arizona (12-2, 10-2 Pac-12) opened up a double-digit lead in the first quarter, 21-11. But Oregon (12-4, 9-4) closed the gap this time, scoring eight straight points to end the period. The last four were by Lydia Giomi, cutting cut the deficit to 21-19.
The second quarter was tight throughout. Te-Hina Paopao tied it 21-21, Sydney Parrish answered an Arizona three-pointer with one of her own for a 24-24 tie, and pretty tic-tac-toe passing from Jaz Shelley to Angela Dugalic to Nyara Sabally led to a basket for a 26-26 tie. Arizona led 33-30 late in the period, but Sabally scored with an assist from Taylor Mikesell and the Ducks trailed by just one at halftime, 33-32.
Arizona’s lead midway through the third was 47-39 when Sabally drove the ball across midcourt and straight to the basket for a layup, and Mikesell hit a jumper on a baseline-out-of-bounds play to make it 47-43. But the Wildcats then made five shots in a row, putting together a 13-0 run to go up 60-43. Paopao closed the quarter with a three-pointer, but the damage was done.
“The first half I thought we had a good game plan, and executed it relatively well,” Graves said. “We can talk ’em through some stuff in the first half (when the Ducks are defending in front of their own bench), and we did. We’re a loud bench. Second half (when the teams switch ends) it’s a little tougher, and we had some breakdowns. And then they shot it well, they did.”
The Wildcats continued to shoot well in the fourth, and although Oregon didn’t have a turnover in the period, the Ducks shot just 4-of-21 and couldn’t keep up. Graves said he had one eye on the future at that point, including a stretch when he had Giomi, Dugalic and Kylee Watson on the floor together.
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“We’ve been kind of going with a bigger, more power attack,” said Graves, whose players are in the midst of a team-wide shooting slump from three-point range. “At that point I was trying to figure out anything that might work. We’d gone through plan A and plan B, and I was down to plan C.”
Who Stood Out: Sabally finished with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and Sedona Prince added 10 points. Paopao had nine points with five assists and two steals, and Dugalic led the Ducks with five rebounds and added three points and three assists.
What It Means: As the Ducks fight to stabilize their season, they’re doing so amid personnel fluctuations. The UO women played again without Taylor Chavez and Maddie Scherr due to COVID-19 protocols, and Graves said some players have been limited by injuries in recent practices.
“It’s been a hodgepodge, and I’m struggling to get any continuity,” Graves said. “It’s just been hard, a challenge, to find what’s going to work with the group we have — and the group we have has been different week to week. But I’m confident we’re going to find that, I truly am.”
Notable: Scherr remained out due to COVID-19 protocols but watched Monday’s game from the bench. The return-to-play protocols include a gradual ramp-up in activity before being cleared to play in games. … The Ducks lost despite an advantage in points in the paint (38-32) and committing fewer turnovers (11-6). … Sabally scored in double figures for the 11th time this season, which leads the team, and Prince did so for the fourth straight game.
Up Next: The Ducks host California on Friday (4 p.m., Pac-12 Network).