A complete rollercoaster of emotion. A game unlike any other this season. A team with everything on the line against another with everything to prove.
And when the seconds ran down, there was no doubt Oregon senior Elijah Brown’s screams were of pure and utter elation.
In its most aggressive, and arguably best-played game of the season, Oregon (19-10, Pac-12 9-7) beat No. 14 Arizona (22-7, 12-4) in overtime, 98-93 at Matthew Knight Arena on Saturday night for the team’s last regular season home game.
“It was a real intense environment,” Oregon’s MiKyle McIntosh said. “The crowd was into it, the coaches were into it, the players were definitely into it. It was a tit-for-tat game.”
Taking his signature step-back behind the arch, Brown released a perfect three with 9:08 remaining in the game. With the swish of the basket, Brown gave Oregon its first lead, earning an instant standing ovation from the crowd.
To add to the senior-night domination, redshirt senior McIntosh made Oregon’s final three-pointer with 1:07 remaining in overtime, giving Oregon its biggest lead of seven points, 95-88.
“I’m really happy for those two seniors,” head coach Dana Altman said. “They did a tremendous job.”
In a first half starting with an Arizona 7-0 run and included Oregon trailing by 13, no one expected Oregon’s bench to help re-route the team to victory.
“[They were] a big factor,” Altman said of Keith Smith and Abu Kigab. “They got the crowd in it, got some of those turnovers started … I thought the energy they brought, I was impressed.”
All five Oregon starters ended in double-digits points, with Brown at the top with 30 points. McIntosh followed with 20 points and Payton Pritchard ended with eight assists.
As a team, the Ducks played just as well. Committing only four turnovers to Arizona’s 17, Oregon outscored the Wildcats 20-4 in points off turnovers, with the help of their 11 steals (eight more than those of Arizona) and 20 assists.
Knowing that an Arizona victory would give them a running chance at the Pac-12 title, both teams played with aggression.
Oregon ended with a total of 21 personal fouls, a technical on McIntosh and three players with four fouls. The Wildcats ended with 19 fouls, including a fouled-out Dylan Smith and two technicals; one on the team and one on sophomore Rawle Alkins.
“Arizona is a great team,” Smith said. “We knew they were going to come out with fire and wanting to prove something, we just knew we had to protect home court and make sure they didn’t here and steal the show.”
After some heavy blows to the Wildcats, including the indefinite suspension of Allonzo Trier and the federal allegations of head coach Sean Miller and DeAndre Ayton, the team lost momentum in the final minutes on the court. Ayton led the Wildcats with his double-double of 28 points and 18 rebounds.
Ayton was one of the first Wildcats to leave the court when time ran out, and Oregon students rushed the court in celebration.
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter: @maggie_vanoni