There wasn’t a whole lot of talk about the game against Oregon this week amongst the Arizona faithful, and we all know–despite some of us being unable to admit it–exactly why that was: because deep down inside, we knew that this would likely be our first loss of the season, and we didn’t really want to talk about it.
Those that have been following Arizona know it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this was coming. In 4 of the last 7 games, the Wildcats have gone on cruise control for the first 35 minutes of the game before deciding to step it up a few notches and play at their highest level of intensity. Against Florida, San Diego State, Colorado and Utah, Arizona required great defense, clutch offense, some Top 10 ESPN plays and a lot of luck in the final minutes to pull out victories that were one play away from being defeats. Three of those games were at McKale Center and one of them was on a neutral court. It was only a matter of time before the Wildcats realized that the ball will not always bounce their way when they don’t play hard for an entire basketball game, especially on the Pac-12 road.
I’m not a fan of the “losing was a good thing for this team, they really needed to lose one to put things in perspective” excuse–losing is never, under any circumstances, a good thing. But if the Wildcats learned one thing from this game, it is the potential of what this team could be if they played 40 hard minutes of college basketball. It wasn’t that Arizona played that bad, as the Wildcats shot 44% from the floor and 42% from three point land, but that they did not play good enough to beat a solid team who was hot and at home. Oregon shot an impressive 48% from the field and 64% from downtown. If Arizona had played as hard as they did in the final stretch for even five additional minutes, they would have won this game. If they had played as hard as they did in the final stretch for the entire game, Oregon would have gotten blown out of their fancy stadium before realizing the game even started. That Arizona, on the road, was even close to beating a team shooting that well (granted, some of Oregon’s good shooting was due to lapses on defense) shows you how good the Wildcats are and how much better they are capable of becoming if they do not take plays off.