Arizona Wildcats vs. Oregon Ducks Pick & Prediction MARCH 15th 2024

LAS VEGAS — After opening its Pac-12 tournament action with its best defensive performance of the season, sixth-ranked Arizona will take on Oregon in a semifinal game on Friday.

The top-seeded Wildcats (25-7) held ninth-seeded Southern California to a season low in points in a 70-49 victory in the second round on Thursday.

Arizona forced 18 turnovers and held the Trojans to 35.7 percent shooting (20 of 56) from the field.

“It’s winning time,” Arizona guard Caleb Love said. “We just wanted to key in on defense. We always want to make that a part of our identity. Locking up on the defensive end, taking pride in our one-on-one matchups, we did that at a high level today.”

Arizona will look for its third victory of the season against fourth-seeded Oregon (21-11), which almost certainly needs to win the Pac-12 tourney for an NCAA Tournament berth. The Ducks advanced Thursday by holding on to beat fifth-seeded UCLA 68-66.

Oregon led by 10 with just over four minutes left, but the Bruins had a final possession to win or send the game into overtime.

The Wildcats beat the Ducks 87-78 on Jan. 27 in Eugene, Ore., and cruised to a 103-83 win on March 2 in Tucson. Arizona shot a robust 60.9 percent from the floor in that game.

“We’re going to have to shoot it good. We’re going to have to rebound good. We’re going to have to be sharp defensively,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “We’re going to have to play really good. They have proven that two times this year. It’s a challenge, but it’s what we got ourselves into.”

Love, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, scored 58 points in the two games against Oregon. The Ducks’ Jermaine Couisnard scored 39 in the loss in Tucson and has a combined 59 points in the two matchups.

The battle in the paint should be intriguing. Oregon’s N’Faly Dante and Arizona’s Oumar Ballo were two of the three centers selected to the 10-person first-team All-Pac-12 squad.

Ballo has double-doubles in 11 of the past 12 games.

“When O plays like that — and he has for a long stretch now — he’s an absolute difference-maker, a monster,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “Really proud of him, and I love that he’s doing it on a nightly basis now.”

Dante has made 16 of 22 shots from the field against Arizona this season.

“He’ll be there to play,” Altman said of Dante. “The best guys gotta step up.”

Altman conceded that the Wildcats are deeper than Oregon, especially with how perimeter players Jaden Bradley and KJ Lewis have been playing with high energy and high impact off the Arizona bench.

Bradley and Lewis combined for 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting, with nine rebounds, in the victory over USC. Both have been defensive pests for much of the season, which is another positive sign for Arizona and its growing defensive reputation.

“We’ve got a real mature group,” Lloyd said. “We’ve got a group of winners, a group of dogs. We haven’t been perfect, but no one has.”

–Anthony Gimino, Field Level Media

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