No. 9 Arizona moved back to the top of the Pac-12 on Saturday with a 87-78 victory vs. Oregon behind Caleb Love’s big day. The Wildcats were coming off a loss to Oregon State on the road and responded days later by winning their first game in Eugene, Oregon, since 2015.
Love scored a career-high 36 points on 12-of-18 shooting for the Wildcats (15-5, 6-3 Pac-12). The North Carolina transfer has 10 games of at least 20 points this season. Love’s backcourt mate — Kylan Boswell — scored 14 points after recording only 14 points in his previous four games combined.
The Wildcats had lost their last nine games at Oregon before snapping that streak with a statement win. Arizona has yet to lose back-to-back games under coach Tommy Lloyd and it improved to 16-0 when coming off a loss.
Oregon (14-6, 6-3) started conference play 5-0 before dropping three of its last four games against Colorado, Utah and Arizona and is now tied with the Wildcats for first place in the Pac-12 standings. Jermaine Couisnard scored a team-high 20 points and big man N’Faly Dante chipped in 19. Dante missed 14 straight games because of injury and is now back to his normal workload after playing under 20 minutes in his first two games back.
Arizona handed the Ducks their first loss at home this season after they started 10-0 in games at Matthew Knight Arena.
There’s a lot to like about Arizona’s Love
The Caleb Love experience is like no other. He is the ultimate microwave that can heat up at a given moment to provide a spark. Love could very well be the missing piece that helps the Wildcats get back to the Final Four and Saturday certainly offered a glimpse of what they can accomplish with him in the fold. Arizona has been up-and-down the last month with blowout wins and questionable losses against unranked opponents.
On one night, the Wildcats look like the undisputed best team in the Pac-12 and the very next, look like a team heading toward another early exit in the NCAA Tournament. Remarkably, Arizona hasn’t lost consecutive games under Lloyd. If the Wildcats can stay consistent, they will be one of the toughest outs come March because of the depth in the starting lineup. It all starts and ends with Love.
Oregon’s NCAA Tournament hopes take a hit
In CBS Sports’ latest Bracketology update by Jerry Palm, Oregon was a No. 11 seed. The loss to Arizona dropped them to 1-4 against Quad 1 opponents and there’s no guarantee the Ducks make the field unless they finish the season strong. After one month of conference play, Arizona is the only team from the Pac-12 that can be viewed as a “lock” to make the NCAA Tournament.
Oregon, Utah, Colorado and Washington State are currently in the mix and this loss was a missed opportunity to separate themselves from the pack. Oregon now has losses to Utah, Colorado and Arizona and will have a chance to play all three teams later to end the season. The Ducks have the talent to make a run in the tournament, but they will have to close the second half of conference play strong to ensure a spot.