No. 9 Oregon set for Pac-12 home opener vs. No. 24 Arizona
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
The ninth-ranked Oregon Ducks face a tough test in their Pac-12 home opener Thursday night when No. 24 Arizona comes to Eugene, Ore.
Oregon (12-3, 1-1) remained in the top 10 despite falling from No. 4 after a split with Colorado and Utah on the road last week. The loss was to the Buffaloes on Thursday.
While the overall series between the Ducks and Wildcats has been dominated by Arizona (Oregon is 32-51), the Ducks have won six of the last eight meetings -- including a Pac-12 tournament game. Oregon has won three straight at home in the series.
The Wildcats (11-3, 1-0) are coming off a win in their conference opener over rival Arizona State, a game that they controlled from the start. Coach Sean Miller told SB Nation that a change of scenery isn't a bad thing as the Wildcats hit the road to Oregon.
"At end of the day, you're still going to be playing at Oregon, and you're still going to have (coach) Dana Altman over there in a white shirt and green tie, and you're going to have a great crowd and really good team to play against," he said.
Arizona, for now, has point guard Nico Mannion at the controls. Mannion averages 14.3 points and 6.3 assists per game, but Miller said Tuesday he fully expects the talented freshman will declare for the NBA Draft after this season.
Mannion's heir apparent is in place. The Wildcats announced that Georgetown transfer James Akinjo will join the team this month, though he isn't eligible to play until December.
"Certainly, we had an interest in him but especially with the need that we have," Miller told the Arizona Daily Star. "James is that point guard you love to have. He's tough. He can score. He can get his own shot. He was the Big East Freshman of the Year, and that's a really good conference, so I think that says a lot about his ability level."
For Oregon, senior guard Payton Pritchard has started 124 consecutive games, a streak that leads the NCAA. He is one of only four Division I players nationally averaging at least 18.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game.
Pritchard played the final few minutes of Oregon's 69-64 win over Utah with cotton in his nose after some contact with a Utes player that drew blood. He finished with 19 points to lead his team.
A frustrating loss at Colorado had the Ducks seeking a split in Salt Lake City. There, Oregon got production from its forwards, notably Chandler Lawson and Shakur Juiston, who scored eight of Oregon's final 10 points of the game.
"We really battled and found a way to win the game. It was a great win for us. We needed it," Altman said.
Looking ahead to playing the Wildcats, the Ducks have a target on their backs, assistant coach Kevin McKenna said on the school's coaches show.
"We know we're going to get the opponents' good shot almost every time, and we've got to be ready for that and be ready to amp it up every time we play," McKenna said.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 9, 2020