Friday night’s Oregon-Arizona showdown in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals nearly featured one of the greatest collapses in the history of the league.
Let’s set the scene. The Ducks had a seven-point lead with 27 seconds left and Casey Benson at the line to shoot a free throw. It looked like things were well in hand after the Ducks had basically led from the midway part of the first half onward. But the Wildcats had chipped away at what was once a 17-point second half lead, and looked like they were just about to come up short.
That’s when the craziness ensued.
Benson missed the free throw, and Kaleb Tarczewski immediately grabbed the rebound and outletted it. Mark Tollefsen then knocked down a 3 with 20 seconds left to make it a four-point game. After a random sequence and a couple of timeouts, Arizona finally fouls Chris Boucher with 12 seconds left. Boucher misses both free throw attempts and Gabe York grabs the defensive rebound and immediately pushes it. This is what happens next.
THIS. THE #Pac12Hoops TOURNAMENT.
— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) March 12, 2016
The Ducks fail to get a defensive rebound, leading to a York 3. Then, Boucher inexplicably — despite having a timeout in his back pocket — inbounds the ball directly to Tollefsen, who is then (smartly) fouled by Dillon Brooks in order to save the game.
How does something like this happen? Let’s let Oregon coach Dana Altman explain.
“Elgin [Cook] was supposed to take the ball in and if there were any problems he would take a timeout,” Altman said about the initial plan.
“That’s my fault,” Altman continued later. “That’s my job to get them in the right positions. So my communication’s got to be better. I thought we were pretty clear who was going to take it in, and we’ve practiced this. We don’t have Chris take it in against any presses. But the heat-of-the-moment pressure makes guys do things that they don’t usually do. Again, Chris made a mistake. It happened. We survived it. Chris will learn from it. And, again, we wouldn’t be in this position without him. Again, I think he was just shook-up because he missed those two free throws and he was just out of sorts from that.”
Tollefsen though could only convert one free throw, and the Wildcats were only able to force overtime instead of winning the game then and there. The Ducks controlled most of the extra period, and ended up picking up the 95-89 win.
“Most teams don’t recover,” Altman said. “They have a ballgame, they let it slip, and it’s very difficult to recover from that and win a ballgame, and I thought our guys did a tremendous job, showed tremendous resiliency there in finding a way to win the game.”
It indeed was an impressive win, even with the mitigating circumstances. The Ducks stayed right on track toward getting either a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed out west in the NCAA Tournament, and will take on either California or Utah in the Pac-12 final.