One-thousand and eighty-two days.
That’s the amount of time No. 18 Arizona had gone between home losses.
Until Thursday night, that is.
No. 23 Oregon went into the McKale Center and ended the nation’s longest home winning streak against the Wildcats with an 83-75 victory. It’s the first time since Feb. 10, 2013, that someone has beaten Arizona at home, a streak of 49 consecutive games.
The Ducks used a decisive final 22 minutes, outscoring the Wildcats by 14 during that run. Dillon Brooks led the way for the Ducks, scoring 24 points and being the continual catalyst for their offense as he so often has this season. His ability to create matchup nightmares for opposing teams plays perfectly into coach Dana Altman’s hands, as his offensive sets are tailor-made to create situations where the defense switches either a smaller or larger defender onto him who cannot handle his ability to slash into the lane.
But to go into McKale and beat the Wildcats, you need to get production on both ends. That’s exactly what Oregon got. Not only did the Ducks force this game to be played at their higher tempo, but they also forced 19 Arizona turnovers that led to 21 points. Compare that to the four points the Wildcats were able to score on only six Oregon turnovers, and that’s your ballgame right there. Not even the Wildcats’ blistering 61 percent shooting could make up for the extra possessions that they gave up.
This ending of the streak really felt like a passing of the torch game for this season. The Wildcats, coming off of two consecutive Pac-12 titles, are finally feeling the effects of losing three players from last season to the NBA and two five-star recruits to injury this season. Sean Miller and his senior leaders have done a great job in keeping things together by a thread this season, but the attrition over the past 10 months is enough to tax even the best programs. And Oregon is the team that looks ready to pick right up for them.
In what has been a Pac-12 defined by parity this season even more than the other high-major conferences nationally, it does seem like Oregon is emerging as the team to beat at the top. The Ducks are now 6-2 in the league and have the two most impressive road victories with wins over Utah and now Arizona. Plus, they’re simply playing like the most complete team in the league. They have perimeter scoring from the outside, a steady set of guards who don’t turn the ball over, solid consistency on the wing with experienced players and the ability to protect the rim inside. That’s a lot of different pieces to the puzzle, and certainly enough for a strong coach like Altman to bring together in an impressive way.
The Ducks will need to consolidate this trip with a road win over Arizona State on Sunday. But it’s hard not to like the position Oregon is in heading into the second half of the Pac-12 season.