Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Championship
Arizona and Oregon. The Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship was up for grabs in Las Vegas. For Arizona and Oregon this was where they envisioned themselves at the beginning of the season. Now the Wildcats and the Ducks have to finish the deal.
Coming into this game both programs have had success in this tournament.
The Ducks have appeared in this championship game three seasons in a row and for the fourth time in the last five seasons. The Ducks have a 4-1 all-time record in the conference championship game. Oregon has won the conference championship game in 2003, 2007, 2013, and 2016. The only loss in the conference championship game came in 2015.
In the 20th edition of the conference tournament championship game, Arizona has now been in 10 of these games. Arizona handed Oregon their only loss in this game in 2015 with a 80-52 win.
With Chris Boucher of Oregon out with an apparent ACL injury it was abundantly obvious that the Ducks rotation was going to be cut down a bit. It was also clear that Oregon was going to have to have players step up their game for the Ducks to come out with a victory.
Dillon Brooks came out with an edge and focus for this game. Every move he made to the basket was definitive and with aggression. Brooks finished the first half with 17 points, but nobody else came along for the ride with him.
On the flip side, Arizona didn’t have anybody that exploded like Dillon Brooks, but it was more balanced scoring. Allonzo Trier had 10 points and five rebounds and Kadeem Allen had seven points and six rebounds.
The Duck strategy with Lauri Markkanen was to deny him any passing lane to receive the ball and double team him every time he caught the ball down on the blocks. Amazingly enough it worked relatively well. Markkanen finished the half with six points, but had no rebounds.
Arizona went in the locker room at half with a 35-29 lead.
The second half started the same way the first half did. Frenetic pacing to the game.
Arizona pushed their lead to double digits and it sent the Arizona heavy crowd into a frenzy, but you can’t count out the Ducks.
Arizona’s double-digit lead went away and the lead fluctuated between four and eight points with under 10 minutes left in the game. At the 7:53 mark the lead was six points and that is when Dillon Brooks came back in the game after sitting with his fourth foul.
For a few minutes the Ducks were substituting Dillon Brooks out on every position. Oregon was putting Brooks in for offense and taking him out on defense.
With 5:25 left in the game the play was fast and furious. The lead was between two and five points.
Once the clock was under 2:42, the lead for the Wildcats never got more than four points. The Ducks were fouling the Wildcats and giving them a great shot at closing out the Ducks, but Arizona couldn’t hit free throws. The usual reliable Lauri Markkanen missed a couple of free throws and that threw Wildcat Nation into worried state of mind.
At that moment I was reminded of an old saying by the great Portland Trailblazer radio announcer, Bill Schonley.
“You have got to make your free throws.” Bill would say when the Blazers struggled from the line.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright, the point guard for the Wildcats missed a couple of freebies as well and that made the Wildcat fans sitting directly behind me have a full on coronary attack. Who could make some free throws for Arizona?
In the end, the Arizona Wildcat, Trier stepped up and hit some free throws and created a cushion from which the Ducks could not recover from.
The final score was 83-80 Wildcats.
The Pac-12 Tournament Champions are the Arizona Wildcats and all the Wildcat fans that made the trip from Tucson will be reveling in this win all night on the Las Vegas Strip. Congrats to Sean Miller and his team. It’s a well-deserved Pac-12 Conference Championship.